Superstitious Ketel Marte not talking to media during 21-game hit streak

Arizona Diamondbacks second baseman Ketel Marte’s hitting streak was at 14 games when manager Torey Lovullo gave him a day off last homestand. Midway through that night’s game, Lovullo found Marte in the dugout.

The game was close. Marte’s bat off the bench could be valuable. It also could jeopardize the hit streak, which was two shy of his career best.

“He said, ‘The hitting streak doesn’t matter to me,’” Lovullo recounted. “‘What matters to me is this team and winning baseball games.’ That described exactly who Ketel Marte is.”

Another week has passed and Marte’s streak still lives on. It was at 21 games entering Friday night’s series opener with the Miami Marlins. It is tied for the fourth-longest streak in Diamondbacks history, nine back of Luis Gonzalez’s franchise-best 30-game streak from 1999.

Just because Marte puts the team above the streak does not mean the streak has no meaning to him. It apparently does. When he was approached by a throng of reporters on Wednesday night in Los Angeles, he told the club’s media relations staffer he did not want to talk, not with the streak on the line.

“No habla,” he said.

Sitting across the room, third baseman Eugenio Suarez could only nod his head. He, too, declined to comment.

“I believe in that, in the baseball gods,” Suarez said. “I understand what he’s saying. He doesn’t want to talk to you guys about it.”

Suarez added, “I want to say something about it, but I don’t want to be that guy.”

Not to say that Marte isn’t swinging the bat well, but he isn’t even as locked in as he has been at various stretches in his career. During the 21 games, he is hitting .270/.305/.528; he was hitting .309 at the start of the streak. He has actually lost 18 points off his batting average during it.

“He’s come to the ballpark and got a hit for three straight weeks; it’s the best thing in the world,” Lovullo said. “Everybody tries to get to that point. I think it talks about engagement. He’s not giving at-bats away. He is spot on with where the pitch is going – where it’s starting and where it’s ending up.”

Marte has notched exactly one hit in 18 of the 21 games.

“I don’t even know how that’s possible,” outfielder Corbin Carroll said. “It seems like every ball he hits is just hit right on the nails. I think that’s maybe even a sign that there’s more to come. It’s impressive to watch. He just makes the game look so easy.”

Lovullo sees the streak as a sort of byproduct of the dedication Marte has displayed — Lovullo likes the word “engagement” — since the start of spring training. Asked early in the year about the perception of many that he was working harder than ever before, he nodded and explained that last year’s World Series run made a changed man.

Playing on that stage, experiencing that atmosphere, made him want to do everything in his power to get there again.

“He’s, at times, the best player on the field the second he steps on it and you can see it with the energy that he’s playing with,” Lovullo said. “It’s translating into some really good moments.

“He’s taken it to the next level. I just think he wants to be the best player on the field and he’s ready to accept that challenge.”

As it happens, this isn’t the first time a Marte hit streak has made headlines. Last October, he hit in 16 consecutive games, extending his career postseason streak, which dated to 2017, to 20 games, a major league record.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Superstitious Ketel Marte keeping quiet during hitting streak