Carlos Martinez quieted the Cubs with this third consecutive quality start to end the season’s first home stand on a high note. The 5-3 victory allowed the Cards to escape with a mostly uninspiring 5-4 stand. But, inside that 5-4 record were the first hints of the pitching staff we are hoping to see. And Martinez has been a substantial contributor to the turnaround.
Martinez became the third Cardinal starter to make two starts on the home-stand while recording an ERA less than three runs a game. In his starts, Carlos allowed 4 runs over 14 innings (2.57 ERA) to join Michael Wacha (0.75) and Jaime Garcia (1.29) in that category. Martinez (.176) and Garcia (.106) both held opposing batters under .200 during their starts, and for the entire home-stand opposing batters hit just .217 against the home team. The overall ERA over the last nine games (even with allowing 6 runs once to Milwaukee and 9 runs once to Cincinnati) was an excellent 3.22.
The Cubs didn’t send a whole lot of right handed batters to the plate against Carlos, but he retired all nine that did come to the plate against him. In his last two starts (against the Cubs and Reds), right handers are hitting just .136 against Martinez (3 singles in 22 at bats). The totals include no walks, no RBIs, and 7 strikeouts. Chicago’s right handers combined were 0-for-12 yesterday against Martinez, Seung-hwan Oh and Trevor Rosenthal.
Martinez never faced a batter yesterday with 2 runners on base, but ten of the 27 he faced yesterday came to the plate with one runner on base. They went 0-for-10 against Carlos. Over his last two games, opposing batsmen are just 1-for-16 against Carlos (.063) with one runner on base. Through his last 14 innings, Martinez has faced only one batter with two runners on base – Cincinnati’s Joey Votto, who took full advantage of that opportunity. Rizzo’s eighth-inning, RBI single against Oh was the only hit the Cubs had in 14 at bats with a runner on base.
One common thread that Martinez shares with Garcia is they are both trouble to face when they get two strikes on you. During the home-stand, opposing hitters went 1-for-28 (.036) against Garcia when he got 2-strikes on them. The Cubs yesterday were 0-for-12 against Martinez in 2-strike opportunities and the Cubs and Reds combined managed just 2 hits in 24 at bats against Martinez with two strikes on them.
St Louis played four games on the home stand after having lost the previous game. Including yesterday’s win, they went 3-1 in those games with a 1.50 ERA.
Rizzo’s RBI single in the eighth came on a 3-2 count. In 18 such at bats, it was the Cubs’ only 2-strike hit during the game. Over the entire home stand, opposing hitters managed a feeble .110 batting average (17/154) once the Cardinal pitching staff got two strikes on them.
Playing Winning Teams
While losing the first two games of the Cub series, the media was quick to point out that the Cards had lost their first five games against the teams (Pittsburgh and Chicago) who are expected to contend with them for the division title. The intent of this was to essentially dismiss the success the Cardinals had against the “lesser” teams.
Setting aside, for the moment, the statistical insignificance of five games among the 38 the Cardinals will play against these rivals, it’s also unfair to dismiss the Brewers and Reds so blithely. Yes, neither team is expected to hang in the race for very long, but both have been playing pretty good baseball in the early going. In fact, as of this morning, the Reds, courtesy of a 6-5 win over Colorado, are 8-7 while Pittsburgh has fallen below .500 at 7-8. The Reds, in fact, are 7-2 so far when playing someone other than the Cardinals or Cubs.
Again, this is not to suggest that either Cincinnati or Milwaukee is a juggernaut. But however they will end the season, both of these teams are currently playing very competitive baseball. The Cardinals stand – at the moment – at 3-3 against winning teams this season. Dismissing their successes against the Reds and Brewers is disingenuous.