First of all, it should be said that Carlos deserved better luck than he received. In last night’s battering at the hands of the Phillies, Cardinal starter Carlos Martinez threw five innings. Four of them were perfect, and the one that wasn’t could easily have been.
Two ground balls that could have been outs were not, and a flyball to center that might have been caught was knocked down by the wind, and all of a sudden it was a catastrophe in the making.
If, however, it’s true that Carlos deserved better on this night, it is also true that this most current loss – a 9-2 falling to Philadelphia (box score) – continues a distressing trend for a man who was once the ace of the staff, a former 18-game winner, and an All-Star.
Since his last victory as a starter, Carlos has appeared in 78 games (counting relief appearances) with a 5.33 ERA. In his last eleven starts, he has totaled just 49.2 innings – never recording an out in the sixth inning in any of them – while going 0-8 with an 8.15 ERA.
Part of Martinez’ fade has been caused by some injuries over the last few years. There’s been a fair share of bad luck mixed in. But mostly it’s just been Carlos not doing as well in situations that he used to shine in.
The glaring example from last night is Martinez dealing with runners in scoring position. Carlos was nearly flawless as long as no runner advanced as far as second base. But the moment that Didi Gregorius’ bouncer snuck under Matt Carpenter’s glove, sending Alec Bohm to third, all the bad things started to happen.
The last nine batters of the inning would come up with runners in scoring position. Three of them would get hits – two of them doubles. And if it was bad luck that Jean Segura’s fly ball dropped for the first double, there was nothing soft or fluky about Andrew McCutchen’s single or Bryce Harper’s double (which left the bat at 103.1 mph). There were also two walks (one of them intentional) and two hit batsmen mixed in. The first batter hit might have been the turning point of the game.
Just after Segura’s double fell in, the Cardinals (trailing just 1-0 at that point) walked eighth-place hitter Mickey Moniak to load the bases and bring up pitcher Zach Eflin. When Zach was grazed by an inside sinker, it made the score 2-0, turned over the lineup, and set in motion the damage that would follow.
Runners in scoring position used to be where Carlos made his money. Through his first six seasons, Martinez faced 871 batters with runners in scoring position. They hit .212 with a .304 slugging percentage against him. Over the last three seasons, Martinez has suffered a .348 batting average against – with a .573 slugging percentage – when dealing with runners in scoring position.
So far in the early days of the 2021 season, 18 batters have faced Martinez with runners in scoring position (RISP). They have 4 singles (two of them infield hits), 2 doubles, 1 home run, 3 walks (1 intentional) and 2 hit batsmen. It works out to a batting line of .538/.667/.923 with 11 runs batted in.
When early season numbers look a little distressing, it’s proper to say “it’s early.” So, yes, it is early, and there is plenty of time remaining for Carlos to right the ship. But this is a drift that has been going on for quite a while now. Long enough to sustain some serious worry about Martinez’ ability to re-discover the Carlos Martinez of old.
Kodi Whitley is one of the young arms trying to establish himself as a big league presence. He added some to the grief as he served up a two-run homer, but also retired all three batters to face him with runners in scoring position. The league, so far this year, is 0-for-6 against Kodi with runners in scoring position. In his cameo last year (Whitley threw 4.2 innings in 2020), batters were 0-for-1 with a runner in scoring position – so, so far, so good.
In to mop up in the bottom of the eighth, Andrew Miller found more trouble. Philadelphia added a final run against him on two singles around a walk. Miller has now been scored on in each of his last three outings, yielding 4 runs over 2 innings. He also allowed both of his inherited runners to score. The last 16 batters to face Andrew have 5 singles, 1 double, 1 home run and 4 walks – a disheartening batting line of .583/.688/.917.
After Philadelphia went 1-for-2 against Miller with runners in scoring position, Andrew has now seen the league start off 2021 going 5 for 8 against him in RISP situations. Well, it’s early.
With two more hits last night, Tommy Edman pushed his hitting streak to 11 games. Edman is hitting .348 during the streak (16 for 46). He has had multiple hits in 4 of the games.
While Tommy’s hitting streak continued, Yadier Molina’s streak ended at ten games with last night’s 0-for-4. Yadi was 13 for 34 (.382) during the streak with 2 doubles and 2 home runs. Yadi drove in 7 runs and slugged .618 over the 10 games.
With Philadelphia scoring 6 times in the second, the Cards have now scored first only once in their last 7 games.
At 2:34, last night’s game was St Louis’ first of the season to check in at less than three hours. The 12-1 loss in Cincinnati on April 4 clocked in at 3:00 even.
While not the 40,000 we are used to seeing, the Cards first home-stand since 2019 to allow fans through the gates saw average “crowds” of 13,104 socially distanced fans. The opener of the Phillie series drew 10,842.
On the last day of that home-stand, Edmundo Sosa made the start at shortstop, leaving third-baseman Nolan Arenado as the only Cardinal to have started all of the first 13 games of the season at the same position. Edman has also started all 13 games, almost evenly divided between second base (7 starts) and right field (6 starts).
After winning the opening games of their first three series, St Louis has dropped the opener of the last two.
Coming in on the heels of a sweep at the hands of the Mets, Philadelphia is the second consecutive team, and third in the last four series, to face the Cardinals after losing their previous series.
When Justin Williams hit his first major league home run in the eighth inning last night, it halted the Cardinal’s scoreless streak at 19.1 innings.
My Designated Hitter Rant
Every year now, baseball purists in the National are continuously threatened with the permanent infliction of the designated hitter. Last year, I responded with an extensive rant against the DH. While trying to update that document, I managed to delete it. So, I have re-written it here. The hope is to set forth a reasonable argument for keeping the DH far, far away from National League parks. I encourage you to read it and pass it along to other like-minded fans of this great old game.