Tag Archives: Carlos Martinez

Carlos Martinez Plays Stopper – With Some Help From His Friends

Over the last two days, we have looked at character games – one run games and games against winning teams.  Thus far in 2017, St Louis has struggled notably in both of those situations.  Today, we’ll look at my third category of character games – games after a loss.  As you might expect, considering this club has already suffered through 5 three-game losing streaks, a four-game losing streak and a seven-game losing streak, the record in games after a loss is also fairly dismal (14-21).

For the first half of the month of June, it has been the starting pitching that has been most responsible for keeping this club in losing streaks.  In nine previous opportunities this month to answer the previous night’s loss, the rotation has managed 1 quality start (surprisingly from Michael Wacha against Philadelphia on June 9), a 1-5 record (the win, again, belonging to Wacha), a 7.47 ERA with a batting line against of .302/.383/.497.

But last night, Carlos Martinez played stopper.  In 92 pitches over 6 innings – and with a rare shower of offensive support – Martinez retired the Cardinals’ latest three-game losing streak with a convincing 11-2 victory over the floundering Baltimore Orioles (box score).

Carlos Martinez

Carlos’ effort last night was his second consecutive quality start, and his ninth in his last ten games.  Through his first four starts of the season, Martinez may not have completely lived up to expectations (he was 0-3 with a 4.76 ERA at that point), but has certainly played the part of the ace since.  He is 6-2 over his last 10 games with a 2.26 ERA and a .173 batting average against.  While the team has struggled to right itself this month, Carlos Martinez has been one of the few pillars of excellence.  He is 2-1 in June with a 2.11 ERA and a soft .169 batting average against.  Of the 12 hits he has allowed in 21.1 June innings, only 3 have been for extra bases – all doubles.  The slugging percentage against Martinez by the 78 batters he has faced so far this month is a negligible .211.

Carlos has been warming to the stopper’s role.  With a lot of losing going on, 9 of Martinez’ 14 starts have followed a loss.  Carlos has come through with quality starts in 7 of the 9 games, with a 2.47 ERA.  His record in those games is 4-3 (and the team is 5-4), but that speaks more to lack of run support.  Last night was only the third time in those 9 games that St Louis has scored more than 2 runs.

Since he became a member of the rotation beginning in 2015, Martinez has made 34 starts in games after a Cardinal loss.  He has responded with 22 quality starts and 220.2 innings during which he has allowed 189 hits (including 14 home runs) while striking out 219.  He is 17-8 in those games (with three other potential wins lost by the bullpen) with a 2.94 ERA.

The fiery, passionate Martinez seems a good fit for the stopper role.

The Other Starters as Stopper

Lance Lynn has had five opportunities to halt Cardinal losing streaks.  Although St Louis has only won two of those, Lynn has pitched very well in his opportunities as the stopper.  He is 2-1 with a 2.22 ERA.  Mike Leake has made 8 starts after a Cardinal loss.  Leake is 2-5 as the stopper (and the team is 2-6 having lost the last four), but his 3.46 ERA in games after a loss suggests that Mike has pitched better than that record indicates.  Michael Wacha (2-1, 5.09 in 7 starts) and Adam Wainwright (3-3, 6.16 in six starts) have struggled most as stoppers thus far.  St Louis is 2-5 when Wacha starts after a loss.

Brett Cecil

Brett Cecil got off to a bad start in his relationship with Cardinal fans.  Recently, he spit up a 3-run, seventh inning lead in a June 7 loss to Cincinnati.  In spite of that slip, Brett has been starting to resemble the pitcher we had hoped to see this year.  He threw a spotless seventh last night (yes, I know he had a 9-run lead at the time), and that difficult inning in Cincinnati was the only time in his last 12 games that he allowed an earned run.

Lots of Help From His Friends

After seeing infrequent offensive support for much of the season – and Martinez has already made three starts this year where he has pitched at least 7.1 innings without allowing a run, but has only won one of those games – Carlos has become the most recent beneficiary of the resurgent Cardinal offense.  The aroused offense tallied 11 runs on 14 hits that included a double and 5 home runs.  Since the second game of the Philadelphia series (the game Nick Pivetta started against them), the Cards have been averaging 6.43 runs per game, while slashing .288/.366/.515.  It’s very encouraging, but there haven’t been an abundance of elite pitchers included in the barrage.

Paul DeJong

Rookie Paul DeJong played igniter last night with 3 hits, 3 runs scored and 3 runs batted in.  Of the 14 major league games he’s played in, 11 have followed Cardinal losses – so this is starting to be business as usual for him.  Paul is now 11 for 40 (.275) in those games.

Matt Carpenter

Matt Carpenter’s hitting streak reached ten games with 2 more hits last night.  It was his fourth consecutive game with at least two hits.  He is 17 for 38 (.447) during the streak, with 7 doubles and 4 home runs – a .947 slugging percentage.

The streak raises Carpenter’s June batting average up to .333 (19 for 57), and his slugging percentage up to .667 for the month, with 11 runs batted in – all driven in over the last 10 games.

Carpenter has always hit very well in games after a loss.  He has now played in 356 such games over his career, hitting .294/.390/.480 with 41 home runs.

Dexter Fowler

Dexter Fowler also singled and homered, driving in 2 runs last night.  Dexter now has hits in 6 of his last 8 games, during which he is hitting .423 (11 for 26) and slugging .846 (2 doubles and 3 home runs).  He has driven in 9 runs in his last 6 games, and now has 30 for the year – 11 of them in June, where he is now hitting .306/.414/.612 for the month with 4 home runs.

Tommy Pham

Tommy Pham was one of the many offensive contributors – he also had a single and a home run.  Tommy has now played in 21 games after a Cardinal loss – games in which he is hitting .313 (20 for 64) with 3 home runs and 11 runs batted in.

Stephen Piscotty

Stephen Piscotty was the lone starter not to join in the fun last night.  Stephen’s difficult season continues.  After his 0 for 4 last night, Stephen is hitting just .167 over his last 9 games (5 for 30) with just 1 extra-base hit (a double).  He is down to .243 for the year.

No Lead is Safe – As Long As Its the Cardinals Who Hold the Lead

When the Cardinals broke through last night with two second inning runs, I really wanted to believe.  Surely it wouldn’t happen again.  Not with Carlos Martinez on the mound.  Not against Cincinnati.  And yet, although they held the lead again after six innings, the Cardinals were batting in the eighth, trailing.  And that, as they say, would be that.

Throughout this disappointing losing streak – which now totals 14 losses in the last 19 games – one of the constants has been that once the Cards fall behind, they stay behind.  Over the course of the 19 games, the Cards have had a lead at some point in 14 of them. They have managed to lose 9 of those games.  Including last night’s 4-2 come from ahead loss to the Reds (box score).  St Louis has now scored 60 runs in the 19 games (3.16 per), and have scored less than 3 runs in 8 of them.

On the other hand, 19 times over the last 19 games, the Cards have surrendered a lead and only 5 times have they fought back to tie or re-take the lead.  In all of those games, St Louis ended up losing.  The only 5 wins they have over the last 3 weeks or so have been in games in which they have never trailed.

Once they have fallen behind during this rough patch, they have hit a microscopic .198/.269/.335.  Last night the 7 batters (yes, there were only seven) who had plate appearances after the Cardinals fell behind were 0 for 6 with a walk (and 3 strikeouts).

Almost Never Behind

One of the strange patterns developing is that St Louis – in the midst of their 5-14 skid – have almost never trailed in the games.  Of the last 708 Cardinals to come to the plate, 273 (39%) have batted with his team ahead, 215 (30%) have batted with the game tied, and only 220 (31%) have come to the plate with the Cardinals trailing.

Yadier Molina

Yadier Molina may be starting to heat up.  He singled, doubled, stole a base and scored a run last night.  He has four hits in his last nine at bats – including a home run in Chicago.  That home run, by the way, was his sixth of the season.  He hit only 8 all of last year.

Jedd Gyorko

Jedd Gyorko – still having a fine year – looked as lost last night as he has in recent memory.  He struck out three times in five at bats in a game where he took strikes and went swinging at pitches well out of the zone.  Jedd has now gone 5 games without drawing a walk, and has hit 2 home runs over his last 26 games.

His strikeouts included one against Raisel Iglesias leading off the ninth, with his team trailing 4-2.  Over these last 19 games, Gyorko is only 1 for 17 (.059) when he hits with the Cards trailing in the game.  He is now 13 for 53 (.245) for the season when his team is behind.

Aledmys Diaz

After his 0 for 3 last night, Aledmys Diaz is hitting .246 (16 for 65) since the beginning of the Boston series (which was the start of this tailspin).  He has played in 18 of the last 19 games and has driven in 1 run.

About six games ago, he was moved to the eighth spot in the order.  He is 4 for 18 (.222) since the move.

Last year, Aledmys was one of the team’s most productive hitters when the score was tied.  In 138 such at bats, he slashed .316/.409/.513.  This year Aledmys has had a much harder time generating offense in tied games.  He is 13 for 64 (.203) and has drawn just 4 walks for a .250 on base percentage.  Over his last 15 at bats in tie games (including his third-inning strikeout last night), Diaz has two infield hits (.133).

Carlos Martinez

All season long, Carlos Martinez has struggled once he’s been given a lead.  I know it’s hard to tell since he almost never has a lead (the 2 support runs scored for him last night – one of which he drove in himself – bring to 4 the total number of support runs he has been given over his last 4 starts), but last night has followed something of a pattern for Carlos that transcends the recent losing skein.  He was brilliant for 6 innings (4 of them when there was no score and 2 when he held a lead) and then he didn’t survive the seventh as he gave it all back up.

For the season, Carlos has pitched 38.2 innings in which the score has been tied.  In those innings, Carlos has a 1.86 ERA and a .162/.216/.269 batting line against.  He has now worked 19.2 innings with a lead.  In those innings, Martinez has seen his ERA leap to 5.49 with a batting line of .247/.289/.429 against.

Carlos’ struggles are a reflection of the entire staff.  Through the last 19 games, the team ERA is 2.08 with a .202/.271/.323 batting line against over 56.1 innings while the score is tied.  Over the 67.1 innings the pitching staff has worked once the offense has provided a lead, the team ERA jumps to 4.95 and the batting line against rises to .242/.304/.389.  For the season, those numbers are 2.78 ERA, .229/.298/.374 when the game is tied; 419 ERA, .252/.308/.408 once they’ve been given a lead.

Kevin Siegrist

Long time bullpen stalwart, Kevin Siegrist has been a significant contributor to the recent struggles.  He retired two of the three batters he faced last night to get out of the seventh inning without giving up a run charged to him.  But he also served up the big double to Scooter Gennett that drove in the deciding runs of the game.

Kevin has now pitched in 7 of the last 19 games, totaling 5.1 very exciting innings that have featured 4 runs on 9 hits (including a home run), and 2 walks.  He carries a 6.75 ERA over those recent outings, with a .409 batting average and a .636 slugging percentage against him.

Last year, Kevin was as dependable as anyone when pitching in a tie game.  He worked 15 such innings in 2016 with a 1.80 ERA and a .170 batting average against.  With Gennett’s game-winning double, Kevin has now served up the winning hit twice over the last 19 games (he also allowed the two-run double from San Francisco’s Christian Arroyo that broke up the 13-inning scoreless tie on May 20).  The last 9 batters that Kevin has faced with the game tied have cashed in with 4 singles and 2 game-winning doubles.  For the season, pitching in tie games, Kevin has served up 8 hits in 14 at bats (.571).

NoteBook

The Cardinals scored the game’s first run for the sixth time in their last seven games.  They are 2-5 in those games.

On May 8 the Cards won 9-4 in Miami.  That was the last time they have won the opening game of a series.  Last night was the eighth consecutive first game of a series they have lost.

Tommy Pham has never driven in more than 18 runs in any major league season.  He drove in 17 last year.  Last night he drove in his fifteenth already this year.

Wheezing Cardinals No Match for Rockies’ Rookie Righthander

Since Yadier Molina capped the three-run first inning in the last game of the Dodger series, the St Louis Cardinals have labored through 17.2 innings, 60 plate appearances, and 221 pitches without scoring a run.  They are 11 for 57 (.193) – including 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position – since their last RBI.

Last night’s offensive production was 0 walks, 4 singles – which were immediately erased in double plays, and Randal Grichuk’s lead-off sixth-inning double that led to the only runner the Cards would put in scoring position on the night, the only runner the Cards would strand that night, and the only batter over the minimum that rookie right-hander Antonio Senzatela and relief pitcher Jordan Lyles would face as they coasted to a 10-0 laugher (box score).

The once impressive Cardinal offense was dominated.  Senzatela wouldn’t have had a much easier time if he were pitching to little leaguers.  He breezed through 8 innings on just 98 pitches.  Of the 25 batters he faced, only 9 managed to extend his at bat past 4 pitches.

Since the Boston Red Sox came into town as the middle set of an eight-game home stand, the Cardinals have lost 7 of 9 games – and the disappearing offense has been one of the reasons.  With this 5-hit shutout, the Cards are hitting .229/.291/.331 over their last 9 games with only 4 home runs and just 31 total runs scored (3.44 per game).  The 4 double plays from last night means that they have now hit into 13 in the course of this losing streak.

Throwing First-Pitch Strikes

For his part, Senzatela was just throwing strikes and taking his chances.  Combined with Lyles, 18 of the 28 Cardinal batters who came to the plate saw first-pitch strikes.  The 10 batters who saw ball one went 3 for 10 (including Grichuk’s double).  Only two of the other 18 put that first-pitch strike into play (Tommy Pham and Molina both had first-pitch groundouts).  The rest went 2 for 16 (both singles).  It was easy.

And it continues a fairly strong trend that has played through the Cards last 9 games.  Of the last 360 Cardinal batters, 239 (66.4%) have seen first-pitch strikes.  Those batters have gone on to hit .201/.224/.290.  The 33.6% who get ball one have responded with a .293/.421/.424 batting line.

Greg Garcia

One of the very useful bench pieces so far this year, Greg Garcia was one of several Cardinal hitters handcuffed by Senzatela.  He went 0 for 3 and grounded into the very first of the 4 double plays the Cards would hit into.  The evening continues a disappointing month for Greg, who is now 5 for 23 (.217) for May.  His 4 hits include 1 double, giving him a .261 slugging percentage this month and no runs batted in.  Garcia hasn’t had an RBI since the fifth inning of the April 18 game against Pittsburgh – 45 at bats ago.  Since then, he has gone 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position.

Garcia was one of the few batters that Sanzatela didn’t routinely get ahead of.  Greg took first-pitch balls in two of his three at bats.  For the season, only 56% of the first pitches thrown to Greg are strikes.  Last year, when his at bat started off with ball one, Greg went on to slash .363/.536/.463.  This year he is only 6 for 26 (.231) with 2 doubles and a .308 slugging percentage after he gets ahead 1-0 in an at bat.

Kolten Wong

Even though he finished the night 0 for 3, Kolten Wong is still looking good at the plate and probably put together the best at bats on the team.  Taking the first pitch all three times, Kolten twice got ahead in the count 1-0.  Both of these became long at bats (9 pitches and 7 pitches, respectively), and both ended with Wong lining out to center.

For the season, Wong starts off an at bat 1-0 more frequently than anyone on the team at 47.1%.  So far in May, he is getting ball one 48.1% of the time (the ML average is 39.9%).  But, like Garcia, Kolten has been unable to take advantage of these recent opportunities.  He is now hitting .241 in May (7 for 29) when his at bat begins with ball one.

Not to make this sound like the Cardinals aren’t being dominated at the plate, but some of this is bad luck, too.  I boldly predict that the Cardinals will score at least one run before they leave Colorado.

Bullpen to the Rescue?

Almost daily in this space, I try to assure the sometimes-fainthearted reader that the bullpen is getting better.  And almost every time I do, something like this happens.  This was a 3-0 game with one out in the eighth inning when the relievers went to work.  One of the most bizarre stats attached to the 2-7 streak the Cards have fallen into is the fact that through all of this the starting pitching has thrown 7 quality starts with a 2.34 ERA.  Somehow, in 29 innings over those same 9 games, the bullpen has managed to heave up 25 runs (23 earned) on 36 hits.  The resulting 7.14 ERA is punctuated by a .310/.366/.491 batting line against.  Answers here have been hard to come by.

Carlos Martinez

The humiliating 10-0 score had little, actually, to do with starting pitcher Carlos Martinez.  For the second straight season, Carlos has started the year a little hit and miss, only to find his stride as the weather heats up.

Martinez has now started twice over these last 9 games and has pitched fairly heroically in both, shutting out San Francisco on two hits over 9 innings and taking a 2-0 game into the eighth-inning against the torrid Colorado lineup in baseball’s most pitcher-unfriendly park.  In 16.1 inning in the two games, Carlos holds a 1.65 ERA and a .148 batting average against.  He has walked just three against 14 strikeouts in those efforts.  St Louis has, of course, lost both games as they didn’t score once in either game while Martinez was the pitcher of record.

For the month of May (with one start probably remaining), Carlos is 3-1 with a 2.23 ERA and a .173 batting average against in 36.1 innings over 5 starts (all quality starts).  In all, this marks six consecutive quality starts for Martinez.

Martinez threw his share of first-pitch strikes, and, through the first part of this season he has been extra-effective when he does.  Last night he threw a first-pitch strike to 20 of the 28 batters he faced, allowing only 3 hits (.167).  For the season, opposing batters carry a .197 batting average against Carlos when he throws his first pitch for a strike.  During the month of May, they are hitting .185 in those at bats.

Matthew Bowman

The game got seriously out of reach during Matthew Bowman’s brief tenure on the mound.  He faced four batters and struck out one.  The other three got hits and scored runs.  Bowman hadn’t allowed an earned run over his previous 8 games (7.1 innings).  The home run that Mark Reynolds hit was only the second all season off of Bowman.

Miguel Socolovich

When Grichuk made a nice diving spear of DJ LeMahieu’s sinking liner to end the eighth inning, it may also have ended the Cardinal career of Miguel Socolovich – who was designated for assignment this afternoon after serving up 4 pile-on runs on 5 hits before he could get his only out of the night.  Comparatively effective in limited use over the last two years (and staying on the roster because he was out of options), Socolovich was little more than a batting practice pitcher by the end.  It took him 119 pitches to navigate through his last 7 innings (during which he allowed 8 runs).  He finishes with a 15.75 ERA in four innings since the beginning of the Boston series, an 8.64 ERA in 8.1 innings during the month of May, 8.68 ERA in 18.2 innings for the season, and 3.80 in 66.1 innings during his Cardinal career.

Behind in the Count is Bad in Colorado

After Martinez spent the first part of the evening throwing strike one, Bowman and Socolovich spent the rest of the eighth inning throwing ball one and paying for it.  The Rockies were 6-6 against the two relievers when they missed with the first pitch.

NoteBook

The Cards have lost the first game of their last five consecutive series.  For the season so far, they are 5-11 in first games.

No Post on Monday

With the Cards playing an afternoon contest on Memorial Day – and with all the other stuff going on that day – I will not attempt to get a post done that day.  I intend to be back in the saddle on Tuesday.

Cardinals Conquer Miami’s Lefty

From the time that they walked off the field in New York – victims of another sweep by the Yankees – there have been several constants in the play of the St Louis Cardinals.  One – of course – is winning.  In the 19 games since that low point in the season, the Cards have now won 14 times.  One of the other constants has been facing a right-handed starting pitcher.  Until last night, the Cards hadn’t seen a lefty on the mound to start a game since the Yankees threw CC Sabathia at them on April 15 – 21 games ago.

From the first game of the ensuing Pittsburgh series to the last game in Atlanta, 725 Cardinals had come to the plate.  Only 67 (9.2%) of them had faced a lefty.

If the Cards were thrown off by the strangeness of it, they didn’t show it too much last night as they drove Miami left-hander Adam Conley from the mound in the fourth inning on their way to a fairly comfortable 9-4 win (box score).  I hedge this statement a bit, because most of the hitters who have played principle parts in the recent Cardinal resurgence didn’t really light up the box score.  The combination of Kolten Wong, Randal Grichuk, Matt Carpenter, Jedd Gyorko, Yadier Molina, Aledmys Diaz and Tommy Pham – essentially the top seven spots in the batting order – combined to go 5 for 29 (.172).

The hitting heroics came from the number eight hitter (rookie Magneuris Sierra, who had two hits playing in just his second major league game), and pitcher Carlos Martinez, 0 for 11 at the plate before last night.  Carlos singled and doubled, and 6 of the 9 Cardinal runs scored as a result of his plate appearances.  It’s not entirely clear how the game would have progressed without his offensive contributions.

This much is clear.  With that fourteenth victory, your St Louis Cardinals have re-emerged at the top of the division – one half game ahead of the Cincinnati Reds, and a full game up on that team from Chicago.  There’s a long way to go, and it’s a bit early to be calculating magic numbers, but the winning streak is very encouraging.  The 2016 team never won 14 games over any 19-game span.  They won 13 out of 19 once, from July 7 through July 29.

Randal Grichuk

After a six-hits-in-eleven-at-bats splurge, Randal Grichuk has tailed a bit (hitless in his last 9 at bats).  Only one of those outs was a strikeout.  The other outs were four popflys and four fly balls (3 to center and 1 to right). His last home run was the game-tying shot in the first game of the Toronto doubleheader (now 44 at bats ago) and Randal has just 1 RBI in his last 8 games.

Grichuk has also seen 20 or more pitches in 5 straight games.  He had seen that many pitches in a game only four times previously this season.  The last few at bats haven’t worked out, but Grichuk is looking pretty locked in at the plate.  Good things are on the horizon.

Randal has now not had a hit against a left-handed pitcher since a fourth-inning home run off of Washington’s Gio Gonzalez back on April 11.  Since then, he is 0 for 11 with 2 walks and 3 strikeouts against lefties.  He is a .111 (2 for 18) hitter against left-handed pitching for the young season.

Aledmys Diaz

Riding a similar roller-coaster is Aledmys Diaz.  At one point during the Atlanta series, Aledmys had hits in five consecutive at bats, and – stretching back to the Milwaukee series – 10 hits over 12 at bats.  But beginning with his ground out in the ninth-inning of the Saturday game, Diaz is hitless in his last 11 at bats.

Carlos Martinez – the pitcher

After pushing through six innings just once through his first four starts, Carlos has now strung together three consecutive quality starts.  Although his final line was 3 runs in six innings, he surrendered nothing until he had built up a 7-0 lead.

Over his last three starts, Carlos is 2-0 with a 2.79 ERA.  With the home runs allowed last night, Martinez has allowed 5 over his last 24.1 innings.

Martinez’ quality start was the rotation’s fourteenth in the last 19 games.  During that streak, the Cardinal starters are 12-1 with a 3.03 ERA.

As you can imagine, right-handed batters don’t usually fare so well against Carlos.  Last season, he held righties to a .207 batting average and a .269 slugging percentage.

He has been nearly as tough on them this year – especially lately.  Last night, right-handers were just 2 for 10 against Martinez – although the two hits were the two home runs off the bat of Marcell Ozuna.  Over his last four starts, right-handers are carrying a .188 batting average (9 for 48) with Martinez on the mound.

Miguel Socolovich

During spring training, there was a lot of talk about looking for multi-inning relievers – and some of the high-profile members of the bullpen (like Trevor Rosenthal) were spoken of as possible matches for that role.

As the season has developed, the mostly unheralded Miguel Socolovich has started to assume that role.  He threw three innings last night to close out the game.

Of his 11 appearances this season, 4 of them have totaled more than one inning.  Miguel carries an 0.93 ERA over 9.2 innings in those games, with Giancarlo Stanton’s home run last night accounting for the only earned run he’s allowed in those innings.  Miguel has also walked only 1 batter over his last 6 games – accounting for 8.1 innings.

Miguel faced five right-handed batters last night and only one of them (Stanton) got a hit.  Last year, righties against Socolovich were only 2 for 34 (.059).  He hasn’t been quite that good against them this year, but even with the home run, right-handers are still just 8 for 35 (.229) for the year.  And just 4 for the last 22 (.182).

NoteBook

Martinez’ 3-run double makes it 6 straight games where the Cards have scored first.  St Louis has gone on to win 5 of the 6.

In winning consecutive starts for the first time this season, Carlos received 9 runs of support from his offense (well, OK, mostly himself).  In his six previous starts, Martinez had been backed by a total of 7 runs.

Cards Survive Two Out Scare to Edge Brewers 2-1

After pitching six brilliant innings last night, Carlos Martinez took a 2-0 lead into the seventh.  Once there, he retired the first two batters.

Then, suddenly, the contest was in doubt.  Domingo Santana ripped a bullet back up the middle that Martinez almost speared for the last out.  But the ball slid out of his glove and Santana had a hit.  One wild pitch later, Carlos thought he was out of the inning when Nick Franklin rolled a grounder toward first-baseman Matt Carpenter – who complicated the inning with an error, sending Santana to third.

He would score one pitch later when Jett Bandy floated a single down the leftfield line.

It was the first two out rally fashioned against Martinez all season (so far).  And it would be the only two out damage Carlos would suffer on this night as he snuffed out the rally, striking out Orlando Arcia on three pitches.

When the Brewers began to stir against Carlos in the eighth, Mike Matheny went to his sometimes scary bullpen.  They would come through in fine style, holding on to the 2-1 Cardinal win (box score).

Carlos Martinez

For the season, now, batters are hitting .222 against Martinez (10 for 45) with two out in the inning.  The only previous two-out RBIs that Carlos had surrendered came on the sixth-inning single by Toronto’s Ryan Goins in his last start.  Even though Carlos hasn’t had the start to the season that he had hoped for, opposing hitters are still just 2 for 15 against him with two-outs and runners in scoring position.

Martinez followed a quality start with a second consecutive quality start for the first time this season.  At times in that previous start against Toronto, he was nearly as dominant as last night, and finished allowing 3 runs in 6 innings.   Last night, of course, even better as he earned his first victory of 2017 allowing no earned runs through 7.1 innings.  With the 2 runs of support last night, Martinez has now been backed by a total of 7 runs in his 6 starts.

Martinez walked just one batter last night.  After walking 8 in his third start against the Yankees, Carlos has walked only 6 total over his last 18.1 innings.  The walk did come with two outs.  Of the 15 batters who have walked against Martinez, 10 have been two-out walks.

Prior to last night’s start, Martinez had induced a total of 37 ground balls (against 42 fly balls) through his first 5 games.  He got 15 ground balls (against 8 fly balls) last night.

Brett Cecil

Brett Cecil made things interesting – allowing an eighth-inning single that sent the tying run to third – but he escaped unscathed and pushed the precarious 2-1 lead into the ninth.  Over his last 11 appearances (covering 7.2 innings) Cecil has allowed just 1 run (unearned) and only 4 hits, walking 3 and striking out 9.  Only 2 of the last 9 runners he’s inherited have scored.

Cecil didn’t walk anyone last night, but has already walked 5 (1 intentionally) in just 10.2 innings.  He walked 8 all of last year in 36.2 innings.

Trevor Rosenthal

In wrapping up his third save of the season, Trevor Rosenthal highlighted his perfect ninth with two more strikeouts.  Trevor has two strikeouts in each of his last six innings, has struck out at least one in every game he’s pitched in, and now has 17 for the year in his first 8.1 innings

It was a very good thing that the pitching staff held things together as the heretofore productive offense was having all flavors of trouble against Wily Peralta.

Matt Carpenter

As well as Brewers’ starter was throwing last night, he wasn’t a match for Matt Carpenter.  Carpenter – who has always hit Peralta well – singled, doubled and scored the first run of the game.  Carpenter is starting to send out a sharp signal that he’s about to go on another tear.  Over the last three games, Matt has 5 hits in 11 at bats (.455) and none of them have been softly hit.  He also has 3 doubles, a home run and 4 RBIs in those games (a 1.000 slugging percentage).

Stephen Piscotty

After incessantly tinkering with his swing, Stephen Piscotty is finally starting to see some results.  His 2-for-4 night included the double (that was almost the home run) that set up the only runs the Cards would score last night.  He is now 5 for his last 11 (.455) with 5 walks – a .625 on base percentage during his last 16 plate appearances.  Of the last 63 pitches thrown to him, Piscotty has swung at just 17 (27%).  He has put the ball in play with 8 of those swings (47.1%).

Piscotty had only one two out at bat last night, coming up in a scoreless game with no one on and two out in the fourth inning.  Stephen finished his six-pitch at bat with a single to center.  For the season, Piscotty is a .222 hitter (12 for 54) before there are two outs in the inning.  He is now 7 for 23 (.304) hitting with two outs.

Kolten Wong

Erasing the memory of the Monday game, Kolten Wong went 2 for 3 with a double, a run batted in, and a huge defensive play.  Kolten’s average has surged, now, to .278 on the season on the strength of a dynamic 8-game hitting streak.

In the 33 plate appearances covered by those 8 games, Kolten has produced 6 singles, 4 doubles, a triple, 5 runs scored, 4 runs batted in (including the game-tying RBI Monday night), 5 walks (2 of them intentional), a hit by pitch, and a sacrifice bunt.  His batting line over his streak is .423/.531/.654.  This is the kind of eruption Cardinal fans have been waiting for.

Dexter Fowler

A couple games ago, Dexter Fowler had one of the best at bats of the season – a 12-pitch duel with Cincinnati’s Bronson Arroyo that he won with a single to right.  He is 0 for 9 with three strikeouts since (including his 0 for 3 last night).

As the leadoff hitter, Dexter is up with nobody out more than anyone else on the team.  He had two more such at bats last night, flying out to leadoff the games and striking out as the first batter in the seventh.  Dexter is now 10 for 54 (.185) when hitting with no one out.  Of players with at least 15 plate appearances with nobody out, only Randal Grichuk’s .133 average (4 for 30) is lower.

Aledmys Diaz

Still struggling to put together consecutive good games, Aledmys Diaz followed his 2-for-5 Monday with another 0-for-4.  Aledmys hit the home run against Zach Davies that began Monday’s 4-run rally, but that has been his only extra base hit (and RBI) since April 23.  He is now just 4 for his last 31, hitting .129/.182/.226 over his last 33 plate appearances.  Diaz has seen just 3.18 pitches per plate appearance during this downturn, although he did make it to 7 pitches his last time up last night.

Diaz was up twice with two out, ending both the third and fifth innings with groundouts to third.  For the season, so far, Diaz is 3 for 32 (.094) with no walks when batting with two out in an inning.

Poised for Greatness – Carlos Martinez

Almost forgotten among the myriad might-have-beens from the 2016 season was that annoying respiratory infection that ravaged the club in late April and early May.  Among the prominent victims of the flu was Carlos Martinez.  Looking back on it now, it becomes a very intriguing what-if.

Before there was Alex Reyes, there was Carlos Martinez.  He was the young phenom with the triple-digit running fastball who was going to anchor the rotation for the next decade.  He made 69 minor league starts over parts of 5 different seasons, going 22-15 with a 2.61 ERA and 347 strikeouts in 338 innings.

Making his major league debut at 21, Martinez did promising work out of the bullpen for a couple of seasons before graduating to the rotation in 2015.

As part of that memorable pitching staff, Martinez lived up to every bit of the hype and anticipation – a difficult thing to do.  Right up to the point where an arm injury ended his season on September 25, after 29 starts.  He was 14-7 with a 3.01 ERA at the time.

In 2016, Martinez began to break through.  While the rest of the team mostly stumbled through April, Carlos took the league by storm.  He ran the table in the season’s first month: 4 starts, 4 quality starts; 4-0 record; a 1.93 ERA founded on a .162 batting average against.  He allowed only 16 hits in 28 April innings, and 11 of those were singles.  He finished April with a .253 opponents’ slugging percentage.

But then the illness set in.  Having lost more than ten pounds, Carlos took the mound May 1 against Washington and Max Scherzer.

He started the game as he had all his April starts.  He set down the first 8 batters he faced – four on strikeouts.  Through 5 innings, he had made 63 pitches allowing no runs and just one hit while striking out 6.  But Martinez weakened after that.  He was bled for a run on two hits in the sixth and gave three more in the seventh on back-to-back, first-pitch home runs from Clint Robinson and Danny Espinosa – as many home runs in those two pitches as he had given up in all of April.

That was Sunday afternoon.  The next Friday (May 6), making his scheduled start against Pittsburgh even though he was down at least 15 pounds at the time, Carlos survived just 3.1 innings and 52 pitches before the illness got the better of him.

Carlos’ next start was pushed back a couple of days to Saturday May 14 in Los Angeles where he would pitch against Scott Kazmir and the Dodgers.  Again, Martinez was very good early, taking a 1-1 tie into the bottom of the fifth.  But then a walk to Carl Crawford and a bunt by Kazmir that rolled for a hit, put Carlos in a jam.  Another walk to Chase Utley loaded the bases with no one out and brought rookie shortstop Corey Seager to the plate for one of the most compelling at bats of the season.

Martinez began with a 99-mph fastball over the inside half for strike one, but the next 99-mph fastball sailed high.  With the count 1-1 and the bases loaded in a tie game, Martinez blazed two more fastballs at 99 and 101 miles per hour right over the outside corner of the strike zone.  But Seager fouled both of them.  He then took a ball to even the count before Martinez caught too much of the plate with a 91-mph fastball that Seager bounced into right for the hit that put the Dodgers ahead.  A fly ball and a groundout added two more runs, and Martinez was on his way to his third consecutive defeat.

This is another one of those moments that served as a kind of microcosm of the season.  For six pitches that Saturday evening, Corey Seager was mentally tougher than Carlos.  He did just enough – fouling off perhaps the two best fastballs Martinez threw all night – until he got a pitch he could handle and didn’t try to do too much with it.  It was a textbook at bat.  It did help, I think, that Martinez threw him all fastballs.

Some of these were issues that plagued Carlos for the whole season.  He made 14 starts against winning teams last year, and, although he held them to just a .223 batting average over 87.2 innings, his record was still just 5-5 against them with a 3.29 ERA.  Through the first four innings last year, Martinez fashioned a 2.63 ERA, holding batters to a .200/.295/.289 batting line.  From the fifth inning on, his ERA rose to 3.75 with a .285/.334/.401 batting line.  In the sixth and seventh innings, Martinez faded to 4.54 and .309/.365/.454.

An area of growth that I hope to see in Carlos Martinez 2017 is an improved ability to stay mentally tough both later in games and against the tougher opponents.

Mostly recovered now, Carols continued to search for his early season form.  He lasted just five innings against Arizona on May 20 absorbing another loss as he served up 4 runs on 7 hits and 3 walks.  He lost again to the Cubs on May 25, lasting just 5 more innings while allowing 6 runs on 6 hits and 3 more walks.

Carlos Martinez is a fiery, emotional pitcher.  This can be a double-edged sword, as his high highs can sometimes be offset by low lows.  I think that’s what happened to him through this grueling stretch of May.  He carried the frustration of the previous start – a little bit, anyway – into his next start.

All things considered, it was about as bad as you could possibly imagine Carols being over a five-game stretch.  He finished that stretch with no quality starts, an 0-5 record, and a 6.84 ERA with a .292 batting average against.  The skid included a .478 batting average against (11 for 23) with runners in scoring position.

On the next to last day in May of 2016, dominant Carlos returned to the mound.  Finding a good rhythm and re-discovering his confidence, Carlos Martinez landed on the Milwaukee Brewers that day, pitching 8 shutout innings during which he struck out 8 and allowed just five singles and one walk.

This would basically be the Carlos Martinez we would see for the rest of the year.  Over his last 22 starts, he would throw 16 quality starts and fashion a 12-4 record with a 2.59 ERA.  From May 30 to the end of the season, the batting line against Martinez was .236/.310/.333.  Remove the first 5 games in May from his season, and Martinez’ record would read 20 quality starts in 26 outings, a 16-4 record, a 2.48 ERA with a .225/.298/.320 batting line against over the course of 170.1 innings.  Moreover, the last 131 batters to face Carlos with runners in scoring position finished with a meek .202 batting average.  These are ace-like numbers.

He threw 1,458 of his last 2,225 pitches for strikes (65.5%).  After batters swung at his first pitch only 24.8% of the time during his 5-game losing streak, they swung at 31.1% of them thereafter.  Of the 22 batters he struck out during the losing streak, only 5 (22.7%) took called third strikes.  Of his last 132 strikeouts, 48 (36.4%) were called third strikes.  What these two numbers suggest is a confident pitcher who challenged batters early in the count, but was able to put them away with breaking pitches late in the count.

There was something of an evolution in Carlos as the season progressed.  Sometime after that Dodger came, he became less the pitcher who would bring only fastballs when faced with tight situations, and more the pitcher who trusted all his pitches in any situation.

Carlos Martinez wants to be a great pitcher.  He doesn’t want to be remembered as a pretty good guy on a bunch of fairly decent teams.  Carlos wants to carve himself a place in baseball history.  He has the stuff and the competitive nature to make that happen.  That next step, though, is the mental step – that mixture of poise and preparation that separates the great players from the good.

But, while Cardinal Nation is watching for him to take that next step in 2017, we will first have to hold our breaths during the World Baseball thing that they play every four years.  As you know, Carlos is the ace of the Dominican Republic staff and threw four innings in their first game – firing two pitches over 100 miles-per-hour in the game.  I’m no big fan of the World Baseball thing – especially when it involves Cardinal pitchers.  The temptation is too great for them to do too much too soon.  I think every year these are held, some team’s season is compromised when some pitcher over-extends in this competition.  Passionate player that he is, Martinez is a candidate for a calamity of this type.

If he doesn’t damage himself over the next several weeks, the development of Carlos Martinez into one of baseball’s elite pitchers will be one of the compelling stories to follow during the 2017 season.