Baseball people say there's a sweet sound the ball makes coming off the bat of the game's special players. They say Macon Braves star Andy Marte has that sound, and that sound was music to his ears Wednesday night.
Marte was both the sound and the fury, as he hit for the cycle to lead the Braves to an 8-2 victory over the Augusta GreenJackets.
He went 4-for-5 with five RBI and belted a three-run home run in the fifth inning off Manny Delcarmen. The homer was Marte's 16th of the season, tops in the South Atlantic League, and his triple in his final at-bat in the ninth inning capped a memorable night.
"At times you hear it, but he's got a ways to go," Macon manager Lynn Jones said. "Remember, this is only A-ball. But we've got a special individual here."
Marte took center stage after Delcarmen struggled in the fifth. Locked in a scoreless duel with Macon starter Matt Wright, Delcarmen gave up an infield single to Tony Pena. He then walked Gregor Blanco and Carlos Duran to load the bases.
Blanco scored the first run on a wild pitch. Three pitches later, Marte connected on a Delcarmen fastball up in the zone, sending it sailing over the wall in left-center.
He completed the first cycle of his career when he legged out a triple to the wall in right-center off reliever Jason Howell.
"I didn't know I had a chance to do it," Marte said of hitting for the cycle. "They told me I had it when I came into the dugout."
Marte's big night added up to a third-straight rough outing for Delcarmen.
Delcarmen allowed four runs on four hits and three walks in five innings. The loss dropped him to 6-8, and his ERA jumped to 4.67. In his past three starts (14 innings), he has surrendered 15 earned runs and 20 hits.
Delcarmen was supposed to square off in a matchup with one of Atlanta's top young pitching prospects, Gonzalo Lopez. But Jones gave the ball to Wright, who did not allow an earned run in six innings and improved to 6-7.
While the Delcarmen-Lopez matchup never happened, Marte created plenty of his own buzz.
At 18, Marte is one of the youngest players in the South Atlantic League, as well as one of the most exciting prospects in the Braves organization. He raised his average to .294, and his five RBI gives him 80, also tops in the league.
Signed by the Braves for $600,000 in September 2000, Marte is billed by scouts as having five-tool potential. Baseball America rated him as Atlanta's 23rd-best prospect before the season, but he figures to make a strong move up the charts next season. Already, he has become the marquee prospect on a Macon club loaded with talent.
"He's having a good year and is not showing any signs of slowing up,' Jones said. "And the fact that he's only 18, that's real exciting."
Braves 8, Jackets 2
Turning point: In the fifth, the Braves scored the first run of the game on a Manny Delcarmen wild pitch, then took a 4-0 lead on a three-run home run by Andy Marte.
Big bat: Marte hit for the cycle, going 4-for-5 with his league-leading 16th home run and five RBI.
Top gun: Macon starter Matt Wright was charged with two unearned runs and held the Jackets to four hits in six innings for the win.
For the record: WP-Delcarmen (6-8). LP-Wright (6-7). Save-Marcel Vianna (1).
Tonight: Braves (RHP Gonzalo Lopez 6-8, 2.66) vs. Jackets (RHP Jerome Gamble 0-0, 1.16), 7:15, Lake Olmstead Stadium
Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425.