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Marte channels Clemente with pair of plays

MLB.com @Tom_Singer

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates' Starling Marte observed Clemente Day in perfect fashion: A couple of Clemente plays in Wednesday night's game against the Cubs.

Though overlooked in the immediate aftermath of the 12-inning, 3-2 loss, the Buccos' left fielder displayed the physical and mental tools that eerily paid homage to the legacy of The Great One.

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PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates' Starling Marte observed Clemente Day in perfect fashion: A couple of Clemente plays in Wednesday night's game against the Cubs.

Though overlooked in the immediate aftermath of the 12-inning, 3-2 loss, the Buccos' left fielder displayed the physical and mental tools that eerily paid homage to the legacy of The Great One.

View Full Game Coverage

With two outs in the sixth inning, Marte hit a routine comebacker to Chicago pitcher Jake Arrieta but tore down the baseline, eliciting a hurried throw that went wild to result in the Bucs' first run.

That play was reminiscent of one of Clemente's signature, identity-crafting moments: In Game 7 of the 1960 World Series, with two outs in the sixth inning -- yes, irony -- Clemente bounced back to Yankees pitcher Bobby Shantz and busted down the line, forcing the little left-hander into a hurried throw. Roberto was out on that play, but his hustle created an impression never forgotten.

Marte's homage became more direct in the 11th inning. Chicago pinch-hitter Tommy La Stella buried a Joakim Soria pitch in the left-field corner. Marte gloved the ball, pushed off the wall and fired a one-hop throw to Neil Walker that was waiting for La Stella's doomed attempt to stretch the hit into a double.

Video: CHC@PIT: Marte's great throw cuts down La Stella

It was Marte's 13th assist of the season, tops in the National League.

"An unbelievable throw," said Rick Sofield, the Pittsburgh coach with three hats -- third base, baserunning, outfield. "That's big league. That's what Roberto was all about. Maybe he had a little stronger arm. But not much -- Marte's got a big-time gun. Every time Clemente threw, he threw with a purpose, with the idea he can throw somebody out.

"Marte lives in the same world. He's got a gunslinger's mentality."

At the risk of getting into sacrilegious territory, it must be pointed out that there is one variable that makes Marte's gunslinging a bit more impressive than even that of Clemente: Roberto played his home games in the shadow of the Forbes Field right-field wall, the corner 300 feet from home plate, one of the shallowest in the NL. In contrast, Marte patrols PNC Park's notoriously vast left field, complete with a North Side Notch.

"Marte actually had to push himself off the corner, and came up throwing for a guy who runs pretty darn good," said Sofield of the throw to nab La Stella. "It shows you the speed, the accuracy. He's got a fast arm to begin with, but he's unbelievably accurate when he lines up in the right spot.

"That's a one-hop belly-button throw to Walker …. an unbelievable throw."

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer and on his podcast.

Pittsburgh Pirates