PITTSBURGH -- As the expression goes, some Pirates might have been thinking between rain delays on Saturday at PNC Park, "I'd stand on my head to help us win." Starling Marte actually did it, though. He provided the lighter side of the Bucs' 8-4 win over Atlanta with a seventh-inning slide that didn't quite go as designed.
Aboard with a leadoff single with Pedro Alvarez at bat, after the Pirates' lead had been pared to two runs by three Braves tallies in the top of the inning, Marte took off for second, looking for his 16th steal. Instead, he found his Must C (catapult) moment: As he lowered into his usual head-first slide, his upper body stuck in the ground saturated by rains, and he briefly wound up on his head before toppling over.
Marte remained prone by the bag. The crowd knew he was OK when they saw second-base umpire John Hirschbeck lean over to check on his condition, and quickly walk away, obviously having been told by Marte that he was all right.
"Nothing happened," Marte said, affably. "You see everything. It was wet, and the dirt was soft … it was funny for everyone. It happened. I'm good."
"It looked a little weird, no doubt," said manager Clint Hurdle, able for the second straight game to shake off basepath misadventures in the wake of triumph.
Marte did a lot more than extreme gymnastics to help the Bucs continue building positive momentum. Shortly after the pratfall, he scored his third run of the day on a Francisco Cervelli double.
The second of those runs had come on the back end of a double steal, a ploy the Pirates often try but seldom convert. In the fifth inning, with the Pittsburgh offense stalled since a five-run first, Alvarez took off from first base with Marte dancing off third.
Rather than deliver his pitch to Jordy Mercer, Braves righty Julio Teheran stepped off the rubber, thinking he'd pulled a fast one on Alvarez. Not so fast: Alvarez stopped midway to second, drew Teheran's throw, zig-zagged in a brief rundown to draw a return throw to first baseman Joey Terdoslavich -- and there went Marte, burning down the line, sliding by catcher A.J. Pierzynski's tag attempt.
"We scored a run, so I thought we executed it well," Hurdle said. "You gotta go with what you believe, be bold and aggressive. You believe in your guys and challenge them to do things."
"I just look for the pitcher to give the ball to somebody, to give me a spot, and then I get a chance to score," Marte said of the gambit that was part of his typical 3-for-4 day as a substitute center fielder.
Marte's 2-for-3 after replacing Andrew McCutchen in center field, removed due to a pitch off the elbow, left him 7-for-19 (.368) this season and 44-for-124 (.355) lifetime when playing center.
"I try to protect him," Marte said of having to pick up for McCutchen, "and do the same he does in center field. When I have a chance to play there, I want to take care of him."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog
Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter
@Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.