For Pittsburgh Pirates fans, Starling Marte was well worth the wait.
Mate batted lead-off and hit the first pitch he saw in an MLB uniform for a solo home run to spark an early Pirates power attack as the Bucs hit three homers in the first two innings to lead the Bucs to a 5-3 win over the Houston Astros.
Pirates fans have been anticipating Marte’s debut for some time now and he looked the part of a top prospect, finishing the day 2-for-4 with a single in the fifth as well.
Marte wasn’t the only Pirates hitter to produce the long ball on the night as Garrett Jones smacked a two-run shot to right to give the Bucs a 3-0 lead after one and then Clint Barmes hit a two-run shot of his own in the second to make it 5-0. That would be more than enough for Pirates starter A.J. Burnett.
Almost lost in the shadows of Marte’s big league debut was another outstanding effort from Burnett, who tossed seven innings of two-hit, shutout ball before allowing a pair of eight inning home runs to Chris Johnson and Carlos Corporan. Burnett retired 20 of the first 23 Astros hitters, allowing only two hits and a walk in that span.
Brad Lincoln came on to get the final two outs in the eighth and Joel Hanrahan looked very shaky in the ninth and allowed a run, but closed it out for his league-leading 30th save of the season.
The Bucs went only 4-for-24 the final seven innings of the game, but did more than enough early to improve to a season-high 14 games over .500 for the second time this season.
Notes: Burnett is 10-1 since May 19, the most wins in the majors since that point….Marte became only the 28th player in MLB history to hit the first pitch he saw out of the park and only the second Pirates player to do so, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since 1922…. The Pirates are now an insane 51-0 when leading after eight innings.. More Marte facts as the rookie became only the fifth Pirates player to homer in his debut and the first since Don Leppert in 1961 and Marte also became the first Bucs player to have a multi-hit game in his debut since Jason Kendall did so in 1996.
Winning Pitcher: Burnett (12-3)
Losing Pitcher: Dallas Keuchel (1-3)
Save: Hanrahan (30)
MVP: Burnett, 7.1 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 4 K, 1 BB. He got a lead and did what an ace is supposed to, throwing up zeroes for the first seven innings
LVP: Casey McGehee, o-4, K. One of only two Pirates (Rod Barajas) without a hit on the night.
Play of the Game: Marte’s leadoff homer. Enough said.
Home Runs: Marte (1), Jones (15), Barmes (5), Johnson (7), Corporan (2)
Up Next: Friday, July 27 at Houston Astros at 8:05 p.m. EDT
Probable Starters: Jeff Karstens (3-2, 3.52 ERA) vs. Jordan Lyles (2-7, 5.50)