DENVER -- No moment could better illustrate what makes Starling Marte an unconventional leadoff hitter than the first at-bat of his Major League career.
Just over a year ago, on July 26, 2012, Marte homered on the first pitch he saw from a big league pitcher. He is an aggressive batter who already has 116 strikeouts this year, very high for a hitter at the top of the order.
And with that type of aggression comes an inevitably streaky bat, shown in a July slump in which Marte drove in only four runs and homered twice. But his bat has heated up quickly in August, as Marte entered Saturday's game with a hit in six straight at-bats, including the second four-hit game of his career Saturday night.
"It's a wild-card leadoff guy with a slashing stroke, but he's gotten better during the season through the experience, through the reps," Hurdle said. "Will he still chase from time to time? Yes, but it's not as dynamic or dramatic as it was last year, even through Spring Training."
And Hurdle is willing to accept the good with the bad, his career-high 33 strikeouts last month outweighed by his ability to inject life into the lineup in the skipper's eyes.
"He's found the ability to spark innings, to stretch innings, continue innings and drive in runs because it's not just that cookie-cutter leadoff hitter," Hurdle said. "It's a guy up there that's got a bat that can play."
Ian McCue is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.