At 6-foot-1, Luis Marte is by no means the biggest player for the Express. But Tuesday night he was larger than life.
The 23-year-old hit a walk-off 3-run home run in the bottom of the 10th inning to give Round Rock a 5-3 win against the New Orleans Baby Cakes. It was the first homer of his Triple-A career and just the 21st time he’s gone yard since turning professional in 2011.
“In that moment, I had to hit a homer,” Marte said. “It was so much fun. A line drive to the middle might have just tied the game. We play hard every day and we help each other every day and encourage each other.”
With Round Rock trailing 4-3, Ronald Guzman singles to lead off the inning and Jason Martinson drew a one-out walk two batters later. Marte collected his fifth RBI in the last two games with the blast, half his previous Triple-A total.
As he was rounding third base, the entire Round Rock dugout met him at home plate with two jugs of Gatorade to dump on him as he crossed home plate.
“He’s been up and down a couple time and every time he’s been here, he’s produced and done a good job,” Express manager Jason Wood said. “I couldn’t be happier for him and the whole team should they’re happy for him too.”
Tyler Wagner (1-8, 6.90 ERA) had one of his best outings of the season, allowing just one run on two hits with four walks and a pair of strikeouts. Round Rock’s Opening Day starter still has just one win on the season, a 5-0 win on the road against Tacoma in which he allowed no runs and one hit in five innings.
“(Wagner) has had a few outings where one big inning with five-plus runs have hurt his ERA,” Wood said. “His last three or four starts have been quality starts. He did a great job making his pitches when he needed to and has progressed as the season has gone on.”
Ryan Rua doubled to lead off the second inning and advanced to third base when Jared Hoying grounded out. Ronald Guzman grounded out during the next at-bat and Rua trotted home from third to give the Express an early 1-0 lead.
New Orleans led off the third inning with a double to left field and the runner advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt. Second generation professional Steve Lombardozzi, Jr. tied the game with a line drive to center field.
Hoying hit a solo home run in the bottom of the fifth to give the Express a 2-1 lead. The 425-foot blast was his 10th dinger of the year, tying him for the active team lead. Round Rock has hit four home runs in the last two games.
After Wagner’s solid outing, Joely Rodriguez came on in relief in the seventh inning. He gave up a triple and a single on the first two pitches he threw and the Baby Cakes tied the game at two runs apiece.
Round Rock had every opportunity to win in walk-off fashion in the bottom of the ninth inning when Drew Stubs led off with a double and Jurickson Profar walked. Brett Nicholas advanced the runners with a sac bunt, but Rua popped out and Hoying stuck out to end the frame.
Round Rock and New Orleans play the penultimate game in the four-game set Wednesday beginning at 7:05 p.m. when Clayton Blackburn (3-2, 5.47 ERA) is expected to take the mound for the Express. The two teams wrap up the series Thursday night at 7:05 before the Express hit the road for an eight-game California swing beginning Friday night in Fresno.
“We have a handful of guys that have been in the locker room all year that don’t want to lose,” Wood said. “You hope the added guys feel the same way and it’s my job to make sure that they do. We’ve got a big road trip coming up, but we’ve got to take care of business here at home first.”