Carlos Martinez did not have the best debut as a starting pitcher, but at the same time, it could have been much worse. Though the team lost, he flashed signs of being a top-end of the rotation guy in the future. In four and two-thirds innings pitched against the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers, Martinez allowed seven hits, three walks, and four earned runs.
Breaking Down the Outing:
Martinez was able to get out of the first inning unscathed, but it did not come easy. It took him 24 pitches and a few 100 MPH heaters to get three outs against some of the hottest hitters in the league. The main highlight of the first inning was his strikeout of Adrian Gonzalez on a 100 MPH fastball up in the zone.
He followed with two more 20+ pitch innings in the second and third–raising his pitch count to 67. He had some relief in the fourth, setting down the Dodgers in order on just five pitches.
He ended up throwing first pitch strikes to 16 of the 24 batters (66.67%) he faced. However, by my count (and I could be wrong), he only threw one first pitch strike to the five batters (20%) he faced in the fifth.
This is where the trouble started for Martinez. He was constantly working from behind in the count in the fifth, and by this point, nearing 100 pitches, his fastball was not nearly as live as it was at the beginning of the outing. Instead of him throwing 99-100 MPH fastballs, he was throwing 94-95 MPH fastballs. Veteran catcher, AJ Ellis, took advantage of this, clobbering a 94 MPH get-me-over fastball over the left-center field wall for a three-run home run–Dodgers 4, Cardinals 1.
Just one pitch after the home run, Mike Matheny and the trainer came out to check on Martinez who appeared to be favoring his throwing hand. What was at the time speculated to be a blister ended up being just a finger cramp, so it should not affect his next start–likely back down in Triple-A.
Another thing to note was that of his 80 fastballs thrown, he only had five swings and misses (6.25%). This was definitely a new experience for him, and this likely played a key role in his inefficiency (98 pitches in just four and two-thirds innings). Unlike the minors, big league hitters were fouling off his good pitches instead of missing them altogether. This is something he will have to get used to if he wants to succeed as a starting pitcher in the majors. Yet, as he continues to develop his off-speed pitches, the swings and misses will rise.
Lastly, for those who care, here is a table of his pitches and speeds courtesy of BrooksBaseball.net:
It was nice to see Martinez finally get a chance to start for the Cardinals. It did not end in the result the team would have wanted, but he still had flashes of brilliance throughout the outing. He will likely be sent back down again to work on his efficiency–something that will come as he gains confidence and control in his off-speed pitches.
On a Personal Note…
I was at the game last night with three of my long-time buddies, John Merlo (@supajam8), BJ Byland (@LetitBeej), and Andrew Bieg (@bieg131). We sat 11 rows from the field in between home and first base. Within a couple minutes of sitting down, Yasiel Puig fouled off a Martinez fastball that ricocheted off the facade of the suites behind us. In what seemed like a blur, Merlo, while still sitting down, turned around and snagged the ball on a fly like a pro (SportsCenter messed up not putting it in the Top 10). After posing for the cheering crowd, he sat down for the rest of the game. See the picture below for proof.
Until next time…
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