Bristol's Martin breaks through at plate

No. 23 Pirates prospect homers twice, logs career-high six RBIs

Mason Martin has seven games this season in which he's driven in at least three runs. (Brian McLeod/MiLB.com)

By Andrew Battifarano / MiLB.com | August 18, 2018 2:47 AM

Through much of August, Mason Martin has struggled to drive pitches he knows he can handle. On Friday, he focused on putting his best swing on those pitches and hoping for good results.

That approach worked to near-perfection, as the Pirates' No. 23 prospect homered twice and doubled while going 4-for-6, driving in a career-high six runs and powering Rookie-level Bristol to a 15-9 victory over Burlington at Burlington Athletic Stadium.


Gameday box score


"These are the kind of nights you chase as a baseball player," Martin said. "They don't always happen that often, especially in professional baseball. But when nights unfold like that, it's definitely a special feeling. I always enjoy these nights. I just try not to get too high or get too low."

The 19-year-old first baseman started the season with Class A West Virginia but was assigned to the Appalachian League on June 8. He had success through his first 34 games on the circuit, batting .305 with five homers and 26 RBIs. However, he hit a dry spell in August, going 6-for-45 through 14 games. 

During that slide, Martin has still been patient enough to work 18 walks compared to 23 strikeouts. But when it comes to swinging the bat, he's been getting tied up on certain pitches, which has kept him from driving the ball. So against the Royals, his goal was to stick with his "A swing" and hunt hittable pitches. 

"It's tough to stick with adjustments that you're making," Martin said. "I think one thing that I've been doing through this stretch here is sticking to those adjustments I'm making. If I make an adjustment and have a bad game, don't just throw it out the window, but stick with it. I think I've been doing a good job of that lately."

He collected three of his four knocks against left-handed pitching. The left-handed hitter found that facing so many southpaws forced him to give extra attention to each at-bat. For the year, Martin's hitting .265 with a .771 OPS against lefties. 

"It just kind of amplified the focus, and the focus and intensity for me was a lot better than what it has been," he said. "Lefties are tough to hit off of, so it was good for me today to have at-bats off of lefties like that. ... I think, honestly, when I face a lefty, I have to stick to my approach because facing a lefty, he can obviously get me off that approach."

Martin flied to left field in the first inning but got the power stroke going in the third. Following Victor Ngoepe's infield single, the 2017 17th-round pick drilled left-hander Marlin Willis' 2-1 pitch for an opposite-field, two-run homer, his first long ball in 10 days. 

"I was definitely trying to get that run in," Martin said. "My identity as a hitter is to be a run contributor. I was definitely just looking for something to drive, whether that's an off-speed or a fastball. I was just trying to get a drivable pitch."

In the fifth, he grounded into a forceout, but an inning later, Martin clubbed Willis' 2-2 offering into right for a two-out double. He attacked the first pitch he saw from southpaw Stephen Greenlees in the seventh for an RBI single. 

With a chance at the cycle in the eighth, Martin instead crushed his second roundtripper of the night, plating two runs off Andres Nunez. His 14th total dinger gave him his second four-hit game of the season and his first multi-hit effort since July 27. It also boosted his average 14 points to .275. 

MiLB include

Coming into his final at-bat, Martin was cognizant of his chance to make history with a cycle. But on second thought, he figured he wouldn't have enough speed to accomplish that milestone. Settling for another long ball wasn't so bad.

"I kind of noticed [the chance at a cycle] before I came up to bat, because I looked through my previous at-bats and what they were throwing me and how they were working me," he said. "I knew I had a chance for it, but if I was going to do it, I couldn't just put the ball anywhere because I'm not an extremely fast runner. So it was just going to have to be something that happened on its own."

Reliever Will Kobos (2-2) picked up the win, allowing two runs on three hits and a walk over 3 1/3 innings. John O'Reilly tossed 2 2/3 perfect frames to earn his first career save.

Andrew Battifarano is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter, @AndrewAtBatt. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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