Pirates' 'little spark plug' Marcano homers in B2B games

One night after hitting first career big fly against Buehler, rookie takes Urías deep

June 1st, 2022

LOS ANGELES -- Walker Buehler and Julio Urías are two of the best pitchers in baseball. Buehler has been an All-Star. Urías will likely be one in due time. They’ve won a championship together. They’ve pitched in countless big games. Their résumés are hard to touch. 

Tucupita Marcano does not care for résumés.

On Monday, Marcano took Buehler deep for his first career home run. A night later, Marcano homered off Urías for his second home run in as many days, setting the tone for the Pirates’ 5-3 win over the Dodgers. The environment -- a sellout crowd at Dodger Stadium -- was as bright, as raucous as they come, but Marcano made the stage his own.

“To get his first two homers in this environment, I think the one thing you can say about Tuc is, he’s not afraid,” said manager Derek Shelton. “He likes the lights. He’s really shown that.”

“He’s a little spark plug for us,” said reliever Wil Crowe, who got his second save of the season. “He’s awesome. We love him. He comes in here, he works hard. He’s doing all the right things. It’s paying off out there.”

Marcano is the third Pirate to experience his first career home run this season, joining Diego Castillo and Jack Suwinski, whose first home run was, coincidentally, also against the Dodgers, earlier in May. Marcano’s fellow rookies were more cool customers; Castillo jogged around the bases as if he had been there before, while Suwinski clapped his hands as he rounded first. Marcano, though, let out a wave of emotion.

As his line drive sailed over the right-center-field fence, giving him the first home run of his career, Marcano put his emotions on display. He flexed his body and let out a cathartic yell. Upon touching home plate, he emphatically high-fived anyone and everyone in sight.

“It was a natural emotion,” Marcano said on Monday. “I’m not going to lie to you, when I was running the bases, all these thoughts crossed my mind, all these memories of everything that I’ve done since I was a child. The desires, the dreams to be able to get my first home run, the thoughts of my parents, my family, everyone back home watching me. All that stuff crossed my mind. Just that emotion came out.”

“Firsts” have been very common for Pittsburgh this season. Miguel Yajure and Roansy Contreras got their first Major League wins. Castillo, Suwinski and Cal Mitchell made their debuts and notched their first hits. Cam Alldred, Beau Sulser and Yerry De Los Santos all pitched in their first games and recorded their first strikeouts. Crowe recorded his first career save. For all the debuts and milestones, there’s likely more on the way.

“I think we’re going to have a lot of them because we’re going to run prospects and players from our system through here,” Shelton said prior to Tuesday’s game. “It never gets old. To watch [Tucupita] hit his first homer, to see guys get their first hits, first win, it never gets old. It’s something that’s going to be part of how we continue to build, but it’s really special.”

Special, just like seeing a rookie hit his first two home runs in a 24-hour timeframe. Marcano’s time with the Pirates has been brief, but he’s been quick to impress. In six games, Marcano is 6-for-17 with the two home runs, a double and a walk. It’s been a continuation of his time with Double-A Altoona, where he’s posted a 148 wRC+. The offensive numbers are easy to see. What’s garnering attention is the defense.

Marcano is a natural infielder, but began playing outfield last season. He’s taken to the position well thus far, putting together an impressive film package at the position in the process. In late April, Marcano threw out Rowdy Tellez at the plate with an 88.8 mph dart. On Monday, Marcano delivered a perfect one-hop on the run to second base, nearly throwing out Trea Turner trying to stretch a double.

“That throw he made last night to second base was one of the coolest things ever, for me,” Crowe said. “It’s his secondary position. He’s working his tail off to get back up here, and a ball’s hit down the left-field line. He cuts it off, one-hops it to second. … Just shows the type of worker he is and the type of teammate he is to adapt to a new position and be ready to go when his time is called.”