PITTSBURGH -- Neil Walker watched Starling Marte run down Paul Goldschmidt's base hit in the left-field corner, put on the brakes and fire off a throw as the batter went for second. Walker straddled the bag, expecting to field the 210-foot throw on the hop. But the ball never touched the infield dirt, instead flying into Walker's glove for the easy out. "On some throws you judge how high they're coming in, and you just know they have to bounce. His never did. He's got some kind of arm," Walker said.
Marte has some kind of bat and speed, too. He sent his third homer into PNC Park's center-field gardening Tuesday night, and came back on Wednesday with No. 4 -- in 13 big league games -- into the right-center grandstand. He has a couple of stolen bases, but more impressive have been his first-to-third gallops. "He comes as advertised. He's a young man with a really big skill set who just needs to play," said manager Clint Hurdle, who until Marte's July 26 arrival had spent much of the season answering questions about when he would get here. "He's also seeing some things he hasn't seen before, and at this level they're going to continue challenging him." Marte entered Wednesday's game with as many strikeouts as hits (13 of each), but he has already shown that he can be a quick learner. In Cincinnati last weekend, Reds pitchers stubbornly worked him on the outer half of the plate, pitches Marte tried to pull. As a result, he went 0-for-6 with three strikeouts in the first two games. Cincinnati's Homer Bailey stuck with the game plan in Sunday's finale, but Marte unlocked a 2-2 tie in the fourth inning with a two-run triple to the opposite field, setting up a badly needed 6-2 victory after the Bucs had dropped the first two games.