Return to '19 form? Marte raking to start year

April 3rd, 2021

It's early, but based on the first two games of the season, it seems the 2019 version of is back, and that is good news for the D-backs.

Marte homered and had two hits Friday as the D-backs fell, 4-2, to the Padres at Petco Park, their second straight loss to open the year.

The bad news for Arizona is that it's still looking for its first win. Marte's two-run homer in the seventh was the D-backs' lone hit with a runner in scoring position, as they went 1-for-12 in those situations and left nine on.

In Thursday's opener, Marte went 4-for-5 with a home run, finishing a triple shy of the cycle and showing a more compact swing from the left side of the plate and the easy power he displayed when he finished fourth in National League MVP Award voting in 2019.

"He's in a strong hitting position," D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. "He's [staying] behind the ball and making great contact. He's worked hard to make these past two days happen, and he's fun to watch. And, you know, we're excited every time he comes up to the plate, because he's going to do something pretty special.

"The [homer] he had the other way tonight was pretty amazing. It looked like he barely swung at the ball, and the ball jumped off his bat. But once again, he knew the direction in which he was trying to hit the baseball, he attacked that way and had a very productive night."

While the D-backs may get excited every time Marte comes up to the plate, he gave them a reason to worry in the sixth inning.

With two outs and a Padres baserunner at first, Jorge Mateo hit a shallow fly ball to center field that Marte dove for and couldn't come up with. Marte quickly retrieved the ball and threw it to shortstop Josh Rojas, who nabbed Luis Campusano trying to score to end the inning.

Marte grimaced and appeared to be shaken up on the play, causing Lovullo and head athletic trainer Ryan DiPanfilo to check on him as he came to the dugout.

"When we saw that, we all held our breath for a minute," Lovullo said. "We went out there and he just had a little left elbow discomfort, but he said he feels fine. He's ready to go tomorrow."

Marte went up the tunnel behind the D-backs' dugout and tried swinging a bat just to make sure that he was OK. He left little doubt that he was when his turn in the order came around in the seventh and he drove a Craig Stammen pitch over the left-field wall for a home run.

"It was a hard play, and I was just trying to catch a ball and my elbow got a little hurt," Marte said. "But right now, I feel good. I feel 100 percent."

With two home runs, Marte has already matched his total from last year's shortened season, when he was bothered by a left wrist issue and struggled to drive the ball from the left side of the plate.

In 2019, Marte hit 32 homers and slashed .329/.389/.592. Last year, that line dipped to .287/.323/.409, although he played only 45 games.

However, from the start of Spring Training this year, it has seemed like the 2019 Marte is back and not the '20 version.

"I mean, that guy just continues to amaze," said D-backs starter Merrill Kelly, who allowed three runs in four-plus innings. "A diving play in center field, looks like he might have sprained his wrist or looks not great, and then just goes up there and hits an opposite-field home run. He's definitely one of the best players in this league. Every time he gets up to the plate, there's an opportunity for something good to happen for the D-backs. I don't see a reason why it wouldn't continue."