Mariners' Marte starting to show power stroke
SEATTLE -- Ketel Marte has shown a little bit of everything on offense through his first 52 Major League games.
The 21-year-old speedster has hit for average. He's walked 21 times and ground into just one double play. He's even shown the ability to both leg and swing his way to extra bases, logging 14 doubles and three triples among his first 55 hits.
The one thing missing was his power stroke, but late in September, even that appears to be coming together. The young shortstop slugged a solo shot to right in the sixth inning of the Mariners' 3-2 loss to the Astros on Monday night, giving him two home runs in his last three games after he didn't manage a single roundtripper in his first 49 games.
Marte is listed at 6-foot-1 and just 165 pounds, but his solo blast off Astros starter Lance McCullers didn't look like one from a speedy leadoff hitter, traveling a projected 381 feet, according to Statcast™, on a high-arcing path over the right-field wall. It came just two nights after he hit his first career home run, off Andrew Heaney, to left field at Angel Stadium.
"It's nothing, I just have had a couple good swings," Marte said. "I'm just trying to make good swings and have good at-bats and see what's going to happen after."
Marte's Monday homer came from his ability to work the count. He waited for his pitch to hit, watching two knuckle curves from McCullers sail out of the strike zone for a 3-1 count. Marte said he has been working on getting his hands through on inside pitches, and it showed as he hammered a 93-mph fastball up and in to tie the game at 2.
Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon has applauded Marte's ability to be the true leadoff hitter Seattle was missing early in the season. By getting on base and showing his speed on the basepaths, he has allowed the Mariners' middle-of-the-order hitters, like Kyle Seager, Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano, to see more fastballs over the middle of the plate. So while he recognized Marte's ability to hit home runs on mistake pitches after Monday's game, McClendon knows his shortstop's strengths.
"Listen, he has the ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark, but he's not a home run hitter by any stretch of the imagination," McClendon said. "They make a mistake, he can hit it out of the ballpark, but I want to see him continue to make solid contact and get on base."
Marte also knows he's best as a contact hitter, but flashing a little power from time to time doesn't hurt, either.
"Like I said, I'm just trying to make a good swing," Marte said. "I've got some pop sometimes when I have to use it."