Pirates outfielder hits game-winning blast in 18-inning win against Nationals
By Alex Putterman
WASHINGTON -- After playing 18 innings in 90-degree weather at Nationals Park on Sunday, Starling Marte was ready to go home.
"Too many innings, we were tired, it was time for a home run," Marte said through an interpreter after his solo homer to left gave the Pirates an incredible 2-1 win in a game that lasted five hours and 48 minutes.
The homer was hit 111.1 mph, according to Statcast™, the second hardest-hit ball of the year for Marte.
Marte was the hero of one of the wildest games of the season. By the time he came to the plate against Oliver Perez in the top of the 18th, the Pirates had already blown a ninth-inning lead, then shut down the Nationals for eight straight frames while putting up a lengthy scoreless streak of their own. Both teams had run out of healthy position players and pitchers.
Marte probably should have never had a chance to hit in the 18th. Thanks to an earlier double switch, the Pirates had the pitcher's spot due up after him and no one available to pinch-hit. Nationals manager Dusty Baker acknowledged afterward that he should have intentionally walked Marte to get to pitcher Jonathon Niese.
"That was my fault because I didn't put the fingers up to walk him," Baker said. "Before I could, he hit the first pitch out of the ballpark. I knew they were out of men. … It hurts to make a mistake like that. I was aware of the situation. Before I could get [catcher Wilson Ramos'] attention -- I said it to [pitching coach] Mike [Maddux], 'We have Niese on deck.' Before [Maddux] could respond, Marte hit the ball out of the ballpark."
The dramatic home run was Marte's seventh of the season and the second of his career in extra innings. But even before the blast, the All-Star was enjoying a nice game, having singled in the fourth inning and doubled in a run in the sixth.
Marte made a key defensive play as well. In the 17th, the outfielder was slow to field a ground-ball single by Trea Turner but recovered quickly enough to throw out Turner trying to stretch the hit into a double. It was Marte's second outfield assist of the series and looked even more important when the next batter reached base.
But it was the 18th-inning homer that gave the Pirates perhaps their most uplifting win of the season, one that could even propel them forward as they battle for a postseason spot in the National League.
"I believe this is great motivation for the rest of the season," Marte said. "It shows that we're together, we're here to fight, we're here to fight for a win, and that's just who we are."
Alex Putterman is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.