MLB Baseball

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Final 1 2 3   4 5 6   7 8 9   R H E
Baltimore0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 151
Pittsburgh2 4 0 0 1 3 0 0 x 10110
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  W: T. Williams (7-9)   L: K. Gausman (11-11)   S: S. Brault (1)
4:05 PM PT5:05 PM MT6:05 PM CT7:05 PM ET19:05 ET23:05 GMT7:05 4:05 PM MST6:05 PM EST6:35 PM VEN3:05 UAE (+1)6:05 PM CT, September 26, 2017
PNC Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania  Attendance: 19,318

Marte making late push as Pirates host Orioles

PITTSBURGH -- Long removed from postseason contention, the Pittsburgh Pirates have their sights fixed on 2018. Five of the eight position players who started for the Pirates on Sunday were rookies, a few of whom contributed to a 4-1 win over St. Louis that damaged the Cardinals' playoff aspirations.

The kids will get further opportunities starting Tuesday when Pittsburgh opens a two-game interleague series against the Baltimore Orioles at PNC Park. But one source of optimism for next season has been the recent play of a veteran, outfielder Starling Marte.

A cornerstone of the franchise, Marte was suspended for 80 games in April after he tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug. Not only did the Pirates miss the presence of the 2016 All-Star, he struggled on the field after his return in July.

All recent signs, however, point to a turnaround that the club hopes will carry over.

"I feel like I'm getting my rhythm back," Marte said Sunday after his two-run homer helped beat the Cardinals. "I feel like things are coming back together and I'm feeling great. I'm feeling good on the bases, even my at-bats. I feel like these two months have allowed me to catch back up."

Fueled by the current homestand, the improvement has been more steady than striking. Marte currently is hitting .261 with a .696 OPS. The Pirates and Marte himself expect much more, but on Aug. 2 the numbers were .239 and .602.

"You always love it when a player works hard and pours into something and can find some success with it," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.

"What's he's done is continue to show up, continue to work to get a little bit better. He'd be the first one to tell you, that the speed of the game in the box has been challenging. Defense has shown up. Baserunning has shown up. The ability to get good breaks and good reads. The swing is coming along."

In the first five games of the homestand, Marte is 8-for-21 with a home run, five RBIs and three stolen bases.

"It's taken him awhile, and this is the best consistency he's shown in the batter's box -- this homestand," Hurdle said. "With some power and some hard contact, it's been fun to watch."

The Orioles also have a veteran who has come on strong in right-hander Kevin Gausman (11-10, 4.61), who has pitched to a 1.71 ERA in his last five starts. And that includes a rough outing when he gave up five runs in three innings against the New York Yankees.

Gausman (0-1, 5.40 ERA in one career start against the Pirates) on Tuesday pitched eight scoreless innings against the Boston Red Sox last week, yielding one hit with seven strikeouts and one walk in a 1-0 loss.

"He was outstanding," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said afterward. "That's about as good as it gets against a team operating on all cylinders and giving it their best shot. Kevin was every bit as good."

Gausman was asked about the improvement after his gem.

"I think not trying as hard," he said. "Early on, I was kind of pressing, trying to have a good year right out of the gate, and I think maybe I was just trying to do too much. (I) kind of simplified my delivery and feeling good about my pitches."

Rookie right-hander Trevor Williams (6-9, 4.18), who has not faced the Orioles, is scheduled to start for the Pirates.

Updated September 25, 2017

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