With the Cards having pulled within three games of the second wild card due to their somewhat improved play (and more due to Colorado’s continuing collapse), a lot of eyes were on Carlos Martinez yesterday. For all his talent, for the fact that he’s the best pitcher on the team, Martinez has had a troubling tendency to not seize the moment at times. Being unable to continue winning streaks. Giving up early runs. You don’t have to go any farther than his last start, where he gave up six runs against their closest competition. So even though he was going up against the San Diego Padres, one of the weakest teams offensively in the majors, there was still a bit of unease.
Martinez took care of that and showed why he still wears the “ace” title.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There were a few Martinez fans yesterday who were using this game to get back at Martinez’s critics, who tend to be a little harsher on Martinez than is warranted given his age, his talent, and his results. However, using a complete game shutout against a team that has trouble hitting its way out of a paper bag isn’t necessarily a clinching argument. While I get that Martinez had all of his pitches working yesterday, he also was a steamroller faced with a paper plate. It’s very possible that the Martinez of yesterday could have shut down any team, but I’d wait until he did it against one of those powerhouses before I started doing a victory dance.
All that said, Martinez was outstanding. Ten strikeouts in a complete game shutout is wonderful no matter who you are facing. Martinez allowed just three hits, walked three (all of which came in the last two innings), and had one runner reach on an error to start the game. Otherwise, he just kept carving folks up.
He was masterful enough to earn a ninth inning even as he finished the eighth just shy of 100 pitches. In fairness, had someone reached base in the top of the frame, Mike Matheny likely would have pinch-hit for Martinez, trying to get that extra run. Instead, the first two batters did what a significant portion of Cardinal hitters did yesterday and Martinez was allowed to stay in.
This just reiterated the problem the Cardinals have, though. With no Trevor Rosenthal, it’s pretty debatable who should take the ninth. It seems to be Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons‘s job now, as Lyons began warming in the ninth. Martinez did walk two in the eighth (one of which was erased on a double play) which would have seemed to indicate he was tiring, but even as good as Lyons has been, trusting someone else with the two-run lead just didn’t seem that advisable. Martinez walked the leadoff guy in the ninth but even then Matheny let him have a long leash, something that probably would have come back to bite the manager had things gone awry. Lyons probably would have been able to handle the ninth without incident but giving him another day of rest and letting Martinez get another complete game was the best decision.
Martinez is the obvious Hero, of course, but who is the Goat? Well, there are plenty to choose from because yet again Luis Perdomo didn’t allow just a whole lot of anything. We’ll go with Harrison Bader, who was 0-4 with two strikeouts, though he did get his first career stolen base in the bigs after reaching on a fielder’s choice. Matt Carpenter and Paul DeJong were both also hitless, but Carpenter left early with shoulder tendonitis and DeJong got a walk and a hit by pitch mixed in there.
Otherwise, the offense was OK, I guess. Seven hits and three walks were counteracted by 10 strikeouts. The only runs of the game came in the fourth, when the bases were loaded with nobody out for Yadier Molina, who drove a ball deep that Jose Pirela couldn’t catch. The ball bounced off his glove and the two runs scored. Jose Martinez only made it to second, perhaps due to uncertainty on whether Pirela was going to catch it or perhaps due to not wanting to push it after having a leg muscle tighten up on him earlier in the game. Not that it really mattered as Bader struck out and Greg Garcia hit into a double play, ending the threat.
It was another two-hit day for Tommy Pham, who first hurt himself sliding into second and having his helmet fly off and bounce into his nose, then left the game early with a shoulder issue that came out of that slide as well. Pham believes he’ll be able to get treatment and be back today, though hopefully his loyal Twitter contingent won’t melt down if he does get a day off.
Carpenter’s injury does bring up more questions. As he explained it after the game, it’s an issue that he’s been dealing with most of the season, which raises a couple of questions. Is this something that the team knew about and has been helping him manage or has he been keeping it to himself? Also, does this explain much of his season and, if so, why is he just now coming forth with it?
As Steven McNeil pointed out on Twitter, nobody ever complained about Albert Pujols dealing with his foot issues or felt like he was being selfish by wanting to play through it. However, as I said in response to him, if Carpenter was hitting .300 with 30 homers, probably people wouldn’t be complaining about him either. It’s the fact that Carpenter’s production has been so diminished this year, to the detriment of the team, that’s the biggest issue. If he’s been keeping this quiet so that he can keep playing, I’m sure he would say that he was doing it because he thought he was the best option for the team but realistically, that’s not been the case. Given his limited work, the offense has actually worked better at times without him. If he’s been dealing with this all year, it sounds like (to this blogger who knows nothing of medicine) that surgery is going to be coming sooner rather than later. Hopefully, if that’s the case, it happens early in the offseason and he can be full health by time spring comes along.
To help cover for Carpenter’s injury, the team is going to promote Breyvic Valera, who had a strong season for Memphis. Memphis won 91 games in 142 (I believe) chances but their playoff squad is going to be severely depleted at this rate. We’ll see what Stubby Clapp can do with what he has left and hopefully it’ll be enough!
Michael Wacha will take the ball this evening–well, late tonight for those of us here in the Central time zone–and go up against a familiar face in Travis Wood, whom the Cardinals know from his time in Chicago and Cincinnati. He’s got a career 5.37 ERA against the Cardinals, but we’ll see if that translates given the scoring environment that is Petco Park. Wacha had a strong outing last time (that we talked about in yesterday’s third overall post–man, we were busy for a holiday, weren’t we?) and going up against the Padres can only help.
For scoreboard watching, the Cubs (who now are just five games ahead of the Cardinals) sent Kyle Hendricks out to face the Pirates and Steven Brault, the Brewers and Zach Davies will face the Reds and Robert Stephenson, and Tyler Chatwood and the Rockies host Ty Blach and the Giants. I guess it’s a good thing we can still be scoreboard watching in September, huh? The season’s not a total loss!