While the St. Louis Cardinals received another strong outing from Carlos Martinez on the mound, it was his bat that stole the show in their 3-2 win over the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday afternoon.
“Yes, I’ve been waiting for a long time for this opportunity,” smiled Martinez, who hit his first career home run in the 6th inning to break a scoreless tie. “When I go into batting practice, I swing harder and I was waiting a long time. Just thank God for everything.”
The home run was not just the first of his MLB career, but Carlos shared the first homer that he had ever hit. So his pace around the bases may have been a little slower than someone used to going yard.
“I was trying to be focused,” said Martinez. “Just waiting for the home run, now I hit the home run so I was running slow because I wanted to be focused.”
The focus was to try and contain the emotion he felt, which spilled over once he reached the Cardinals bench.
“Jose saw me when I came to the dugout and he gave me a big hug,” said Martinez. “I was almost crying because he’s my brother. He’s my guy. I’m just so excited right now.”
Though they share the same last name, Carlos and Jose are not related. But they have forged a deep friendship since becoming teammates over the last couple of seasons.
“I think the chemistry that we bring to the stadium or whenever we go to the mall or something–we always hang out,” explained Jose. “We help each other out. Whatever opinion that he needs from me in life, I give him. And whatever opinion I need from this level that he has right now is kind of different out of me. Take care of family first and other stuff that you’re doing, you don’t need some of the stuff you’re not going to use.
“He’s an example of perseverance because he came from nothing. I mean, I had a big league father–he had a little bit of money. If you ask (Carlos) he came out of nothing. He had to go do a lot of things to survive for him and his family. So if you start getting a little bit of a different life and stuff, you start getting a little out of your shoes. But I think he’s started realizing that he needs to take care of his family first and just go out there and work harder and harder to be better every day. And I think I admire him just for that because he goes out there with a great attitude and tries to give us a chance to win.”
Besides the bond between the two Martinez, the home run from Carlos also provided the unique statistic of being the first MLB homer from a player named Carlos Martinez since Jose’s late father did so in 1995 off former Cardinals pitching coach Derek Lilliquist.
“That’s crazy, we just talked about that,” said Jose, who pats the tattoo of his father’s face on his left shoulder for luck in almost each at-bat. “I think if you don’t, the way I want to say it, you find a way to be around or to be remembered. My first homer was against the Blue Jays and his first homer was against the Blue Jays. So there’s some stuff that he always pops out from like the middle of nowhere. It’s special. I’m happy for Carlos–he wanted that homer. He wanted the first one and went a long time without a homer.”
On the mound, Carlos turned in another strong performance allowing one run on five hits in 7.1 innings pitched with five strikeouts and two walks.
“The first thing I say is to focus,” explained Martinez. “When I’ve got focus, I’ve got all my pitches good. The other thing is just trying to be low, around the knees all the time because I’ll allow ground balls. Today, a lot of ground balls. Just trying to compete, not worrying about what happens on the field. Just compete.”
In his last 40.0 innings, Martinez has allowed only three runs to score. In addition, he has held batters to a .026 (1-38) with runners in scoring position. The numbers reflect part of the preseason goal Carlos discussed about trying to take his game to the next level.
“Yeah, I feel great right now,” agreed Carlos, who included credit for new pitching coach Mike Maddux. “I feel comfortable with all my pitches. All the time, when I’ve got a side or my bullpen, he talks to me. He talks to me about everything–pitch by pitch, being focused all the time…he helps me a lot. I really appreciate him.”
With the four strikeouts in the game, Martinez moved past Jaime Garcia into sole possession of 20th place in Cardinals all-time history.
photo credit: Joe Puetz, David Kohl Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports