Thursday's performance a good sign for Marte

Outfielder had two 107-plus-mph hits; Harrison, Cervelli return to lineup

Thursday's performance a good sign for Marte

PITTSBURGH -- If Thursday night was any indication, Starling Marte might be finding his groove at the plate.

Marte sparked the Pirates lineup in a 6-0 win over the Reds, going 3-for-5 with a double, his fourth multi-hit game and his second extra-base hit since returning from an 80-game suspension on July 18. It was not just about the results, however. Marte consistently made better contact Thursday than he has at any point since returning from his suspension.

In the first inning, Marte smacked a 107.4-mph, ground-ball single to center. In the third, he ripped a 109.9-mph, line-drive double to deep center field. He hit another fly ball to deep center field in the fourth. He also reached on an infield single in the seventh, then grounded out to end his night.

"He got good swing after good swing until the last ball he hit off the end of the bat to first. Really looked focused," manager Clint Hurdle said afterward. "Saw the ball well. Good timing. Barrel showed up. He's a difference-maker when he gets on at the top of the lineup."

Even more so when he's hitting the ball hard. According to Statcast™, Marte's 107.4-mph single and 109.9-mph double were two of his four hardest base hits this season; the double was his hardest, and the single ranked fourth.

It was also just the fourth time in the past three years, and the first time this season, that Marte notched multiple hits that hard in one game.

"Definitely feeling a lot better. Feeling great, actually," Marte said through interpreter Mike Gonzalez. "Getting my movements together and seeing the ball a lot better and having a lot better judgment at the plate."

Around the horn

• Infielder Josh Harrison (lower left leg soreness) and catcher Francisco Cervelli (groin) returned to the lineup Friday night. Harrison did not start the past three games, while Cervelli was sidelined Wednesday and Thursday.

"Both of them are dinged up," Hurdle said. "You want to give them a chance to go back in when they can play at a level they've grown accustomed to."

• The Pirates officially promoted top pitching prospect Mitch Keller from Class A Advanced Bradenton to Double-A Altoona. Keller, 21, is Pittsburgh's No. 2 prospect and the 22nd-ranked prospect in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline.

Top Prospects: Keller, PIT

The right-hander made 15 appearances for Bradenton this season, going 6-3 with a 3.14 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 64 strikeouts in 77 1/3 innings. A second-round Draft pick in 2014, Keller has a 2.75 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 3.81 strikeout-to-walk ratio over parts of four Minor League seasons

Gregory Polanco was out of the lineup Friday against left-hander Travis Wood. Polanco came off the disabled list Wednesday after sitting out due to a strained left hamstring. Jose Osuna started in right field in Polanco's place.

• Catcher Chris Stewart was behind the plate for Thursday's 6-0 win over the Reds. Stewart has caught each of the Pirates' last four shutouts. They've thrown six on the year, and Cervelli caught the first two.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.