Marte powers Pirates over Nationals.


Recharged outfielder’s torrid hitting

continues as Pirates defeat Nationals

Associated Press

PITTSBURGH

Starling Marte did not start any of the first three games of July because Pirates manager Clint Hurdle felt his slumping center fielder needed a mental break.

The strategy worked, even if Marte still doesn’t agree with it.

Marte hit a two-run home run and Trevor Williams combined with four relievers on a five-hitter as Pittsburgh beat the Washington Nationals 2-0 on Wednesday.

Marte homered to deep center field, his 11th, with two outs in the third off Gio Gonzalez after Jordy Mercer led off the inning with the first of his two doubles. That was enough to give the Pirates just their third win in nine games.

Since returning to the lineup, Marte has a least a hit in all seven games, going 12 for 26 (.462).

“Personally, I don’t think it’s to my benefit to have days off,” Marte said through a translator. “I like to play every day, but I do realize there are pros to having days off and I’ve been reaping the benefits of it over the last week.”

“It gave him some time to work of his [hitting] approach and iron some things out,” Hurdle said. “He hit the reset button, got a fresh start.”

Williams (7-7) won for just the second time in his past 10 starts, giving up four hits with three strikeouts and three walks. He is 2-5 with a 6.26 ERA in that span after going 5-2 with a 2.72 ERA in his first nine outings.

“The ball seemed to be coming out of my hand better,” Williams said. “I was executing pitches. That’s always the key, whether you throw 101 [mph] or 85. You have to execute pitches to be successful.”

Gonzalez (6-6) remained winless since May 28 despite allowing just two runs, six hits and one walk while striking out four. The left-hander is 0-4 in his past eight starts.

Though disappointed by the outcome, Gonzalez was heartened by his performance.

“That’s a great, great start for me in the right direction,” he said. “This is one of those games you want to put behind you and move forward, but for me, this is a personal step forward and I love that.”

Washington (46-46) lost for the 11th time in 16 games and fell back to .500, scoring 20 runs in the losses and 57 runs in the wins.

“Consistency is the name of the game,” first-year manager Dave Martinez said. “The one day we hit, we score a lot. One day, we don’t.”

Richard Rodriguez, Edgar Santana, Kyle Crick and Felipe Vazquez followed Williams with one scoreless inning each. Vazquez earned his 20th save in 24 opportunities.

“I thought [Williams] probably had one more inning in him, but I liked the matchups with our bullpen and thought that was the best way to win the game,” Hurdle said.

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