Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Pirates 5, Astros 3 a Starling Beginning Marte Delivers?hr on First Pitch?of First At-Bat ?in Major Leagues

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Pirates 5, Astros 3 a Starling Beginning Marte Delivers?hr on First Pitch?of First At-Bat ?in Major Leagues

Article excerpt

HOUSTON --

The Pirates waited and waited and waited for the right time to call up Starling Marte, their prized outfield prospect. Marte didn't wait long to make his mark.

First pitch. First swing. First home run.

Marte led off the game -- and his career -- with a first-pitch home run, sparking the Pirates to a 5-3 victory against the Houston Astros Thursday night at Minute Maid Park.

"This is a dream come true for me," Marte said before the game, as interpreted by first-base coach Luis Silverio.

It could be a wish come true for the Pirates, who have been looking for an impact bat for months while Marte pounded 20 homers in Class AAA Indianapolis.

"I'm pretty humble, from where I'm coming from," Marte said. "I'm from a very low-income family, and I'm very excited to be here in the big leagues. I'm just looking forward to whatever I can do."

As he stepped to the plate for his first career at-bat -- with concerns about how he would handle major league pitching and the pressure of a pennant race -- Marte tapped Astros catcher Carlos Corporan on the shin-guards, a common greeting, and dug in against Houston starter Dallas Keuchel.

Keuchel fired with an 86-mph cut fastball that he left up in the zone. Marte cranked it to left-center for the Pirates' second leadoff home run this season.

"I got goosebumps when he hit it," manager Clint Hurdle said.

Marte said he planned to give the home run ball to his grandmother, who helped raise him.

He made his major league debut with confidence, not nervousness. He can credit that partly to a strong spring training in which he hit .520 with three home runs in 12 games. At the time, Hurdle told the 23-year-old he wanted him to focus on having fun -- and not on the pressure to produce.

"This has more meaning now," Hurdle said. "He understands where we are in our season because he's been watching it. He understands that he doesn't have to do it all. He doesn't have to be the guy. He's our left fielder who's batting leadoff tonight. …

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