The end result and a lot of the play getting there was not what the St. Louis Cardinals wanted as they lost 6-3 to the Chicago Cubs in the second game of their weekend series. It was the 14th game of the year the team committed at least two errors and they were 1-8 with runners in scoring position and lost a couple of other runners on the base paths.
And while Carlos Martinez again did not quite yet look like the same pitcher as before he went on the disabled list with a lat strain, his manager did note some progress.
“Better, but still not exactly where he wants to be obviously, the free passes,” assessed Mike Matheny. “Thought he was much sharper. Getting the first walk and then after that, locking it in. Just looked more like his ‘stuff’ so good life, very consistent. Had some close misses, but looked much more like him.”
“I really appreciate him because he has confidence in me,” said Martinez. “This one is better than the last two.”
Since his return from the disabled list, Martinez has allowed 18 walks in his three starts. He’s walked at least five batters in each of those games.
“Before I was–everything was comfortable,” said Martinez. “Right now, I’m just working with my arm. Trying to be healthy and trying to be focused. Don’t worry about something happening again, I’m just trying to compete. I don’t want to lose my focus.”
To clarify, Martinez was asked if he was still trying to gain strength back in his arm.
“Right now my arm feels–I’m ready,” assured Martinez. “I’m ready, I just need to work a lot in the bullpen. Every bullpen I need to work with my two-seamer. There’s a lot of moves I want to try and make adjustments.”
Mechanically, a consistent release point or stride length have been brought up but Carlos offered another idea.
“I think I need to throw hard,” said Martinez. “Every pitch I’m throwing, I need to throw hard. I don’t need to throw something soft because that’s why they have a lot of movement. That’s why I say I need to work in the bullpen before my next time.”
The last few pitches Martinez delivered were at or near 98mph and resulted in two strikeouts looking sandwiched around an intentional walk.
“Those were four-seamers,” shared Martinez. “Today, I was working a lot with my four-seamer because my two-seamer and cutter weren’t working.”
Using his full velocity was some advice he received a couple of days ago from Matheny.
“Go hard on everything,” said Martinez. “That made me better than the last two starts.”
Speaking the day after, Matheny expanded upon the message to his pitcher.
“Preparing in his warm-ups,” explained Matheny. “His bullpen and his warm-ups, he’s been one who’s kind of throttled back and is going real easy just kind of getting his arm loose and then expected to jump up there and compete with his best stuff when he hadn’t really thrown his best stuff yet. I’m not trying to get guys to throw hard, I’m wanting them to replicate what they do in the game in their practice. Especially–those eight pitches are real important. To get used to the mound, get used to the visual of being on the mound and seeing the plate. They need to be very much like what you’re going to throw to the first hitter. That first inning’s very important and that was the message.”
Martinez finished with a line of 5.0 innings pitched, 7 hits, 3 runs, 6 walks, and 5 strikeouts. He threw 98 pitches with 60 being strikes.
“You could tell right from the top, he had an urgency about that 1st inning,” said Matheny. “How it looked just like his last inning did instead of that progression of changing things. I thought he did a real nice–it was nice adjustment, unfortunately just a couple mistakes and those free bases.”
photo credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports