Pirates outfielder Starling Marte will return from his 80-game PED suspension today. Yesterday he faced the press. He apologized for letting his team and the fans down, bus still says that he isn’t sure what substance got him suspended.
He tested poisitive for Nandrolone, but claims he did not inject himself with the steroid. He says that it was a matter of “not being careful enough,” in monitoring what he took while at home in the Dominican Republic in the offseason. He said, however, that he “respects” and “understands” whatever guff he takes from his teammates, the fans or the press.
The Pirates went 39-41 during Marte’s absence and are 45-48 overall. They’ve surged of late and, thanks to a lackluster NL Central this season, are nominally in contention, six games back of the Brewers. Marte was hitting .241 with two homers and seven RBIs in 13 games when he was suspended. He hit .304 with a home run and three RBIs in 12 minor league rehab starts. Marte had taken over in center field, moving Andrew McCutchen to left, but McCutchen has returned to center in Marte’s absence. He will remain there and Marte will play in left.
The Athletics are tied for first place in the AL West for the first time since Opening Day. They took the first of a three-game series against the Astros on Friday with a wild (and controversial) overturned replay call in the ninth and Matt Olson‘s decisive walk-off home run in the 10th — the first of his career to date — then returned on Saturday and bested the Astros 7-1 to take first place.
Saturday’s win was less of a nail-biter than Friday’s had been, but its rewards were just as sweet. Trevor Cahill led the A’s through the first seven innings of one-hit, seven-strikeout ball, backed by seven runs on five RBI doubles from Khris Davis, Matt Olson, Stephen Piscotty and Josh Phegley. All told, the four players struck eight doubles to tie the franchise single-game record.
The Astros, meanwhile, were stymied by both Cahill and the A’s bullpen through the first eight innings of the game. Following Cahill’s seven shutout innings, Jeurys Familia took the ball in the eighth and blanked the Astros to preserve the seven-run lead. Yusmeiro Petit wasn’t quite so lucky: with one out in the top of the ninth, he pitched to a full count against Tony Kemp, then saw his 90.1-MPH fastball returned to right field for a home run. That was the first and last time the Astros crossed home plate, however, as Kyle Tucker popped out to third base and Alex Bregman cemented the loss with a fly ball to right.
Entering Saturday’s game, the Astros had not been out of first place since June 13, when they played second fiddle to the now third-place Mariners. They’ll share first-place honors with the Athletics until Sunday’s finale; it’ll take a series sweep for Oakland to take the lead in the division, but they’ve already delivered incredible results over the last two weeks (and it’s worth noting, as MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart pointed out, that Houston has now lost seven of their last eight games). The A’s climbed out of the no. 3 spot at the start of August and have steadily progressed toward first place ever since, driven by two separate four-win streaks and their two decisive wins this weekend. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle also notes that the club has not been in first place in a non-April month since August 25, 2014 — the last year they qualified for the playoffs.