St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Carlos Martinez made his second start of the World Baseball Classic for the Dominican Republic Tuesday night. He pitched the first four innings in the DR’s 3-1 loss to Puerto Rico.
Round 2 of the World Baseball Classic began Tuesday night in Pool F, pitting the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico against each other. Both teams went 3-0 in the first round of the tournament. As he did in round one, St. Louis Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez toed the rubber for the DR’s first game of pool play.
Martinez pitched four innings, allowed two runs (one was unearned), and was tagged with the loss. Had it not been for a fourth-inning error that began Puerto Rico’s rally for its second run, Carlos would have walked away with a no-decision.
Here’s a play-by-play with analysis of his four frames on the mound:
Leading off the bottom of the first for Team Puerto Rico was Angel Pagan. He flew out to center fielder Gregory Polanco in the right-center field gap on the fifth pitch of the at-bat, a 98 mph fastball, to begin Martinez’ night on the mound. Check out the movement on his sinker:
Martinez got ahead of second-place hitter Francisco Lindor 0-2, but ended up walking the Puerto Rican shortstop five pitches later.
Next was third baseman Carlos Correa, who also walked on a full count pitch. The back-to-back walks put runners on first and second base with one out.
Former Cardinal Carlos Beltran flew out to deep center field on the first pitch of his at-bat. Beltran and Martinez were teammates in 2013, Carlos’ first year in the majors and Beltran’s last year with St. Louis.
That brought up Martinez’ current battery mate with the Cardinals, catcher Yadier Molina, with two on and two out.
Molina got the best of Martinez in his first at-bat against his teammate, as he lofted a single to shallow left-center field to plate the game’s first run. It was a classic Molina knock – he fought off a pitch running in towards his hands and landed it in open outfield space in between the left fielder, center fielder, and shortstop.
Pacing behind the mound after the at-bat, Martinez fought back a smirk as Molina cracked a smile at first base, but the two didn’t make eye contact (see video below).
You can bet Yadi will keep that in his back pocket during the season in case he wants to have some fun with the young right-hander.
Martinez followed with his first strikeout of the evening, stranding two runners and limiting the first-inning damage to a single tally. He got free-swinging Javier Baez on a slider.
First Inning: 1 R, 1 H, 2 BB, 1 K, 25 pitches (12 balls, 13 strikes)
With the game tied at one, Carlos walked Eddie Rosario on five pitches to begin the second inning. T.J. Rivera followed with a flyout to center field on a 100 mph fastball for the first out of the second.
Martinez carved up nine-place hitter Reymond Fuentes on three pitches, netting two swings and misses on tailing changeups , one of which was the strikeout pitch for out number two:
Back to the top of the order, Martinez got Pagan swinging on strikes with a slider running in on the left-hander for the final out of the inning.
Second Inning: 0 R, 0 H, 1 BB, 2 K,15 pitches (5 balls, 10 strikes)
Martinez left a changeup up in the zone to Lindor, who singled to center field to begin the third inning.
Correa followed with a sharp grounder to the hot corner, but third baseman Adrian Beltre and second baseman Robinson Cano turned it into a double play to erase the lead off baserunner.
Martinez got his fourth strikeout of the night facing Beltran, who swung and missed at a backdoor slider for strike three, ending the third inning:
Third Inning: 0 R, 1 H, 0 BB, 1 K, 11 pitches (4 balls, 7 strikes)
Molina led off the fourth inning for Puerto Rico. Martinez started him with a curveball that just missed low and away. Molina grinned back at the mound – it isn’t a pitch Molina calls for from Carlos very often. Three pitches later, Yadi flew out to right field for the first out of the fourth.
Baez bounced the first pitch of his at-bat to third base, but Beltre’s throw was wide of first base, allowing Javier to reach second on the throwing error.
The error hurt, as the next batter, Rosario, lifted a run scoring ground-rule double to right-center field to put Puerto Rico ahead, 2-1. It wasn’t a bad pitch from Martinez; Rosario went down to get the slider.
Carlos hit Rivera on an 0-2 breaking ball to put runners on first and second, still with one out.
Fuentes grounded into a fielders’ choice on a slow ground ball to shortstop. He reached first base, Rosario moved to third, and Rivera was forced at second base for the second out of the inning.
That brought up Pagan for the third time against Martinez, who battled with Carlos until he got caught looking on a 91 mph changeup on the seventh pitch of the at-bat for strike three:
Again, Martinez limited the damage and stranded two baserunners, this time working around the error and allowing only the unearned run.
Fourth Inning: 1 R (0 ER), 1 H, 0 BB (1 HBP), 1 K, 20 pitches (6 balls, 14 strikes)
Final line: 4.0 IP, 2 R, 1 ER, 3 H, 3 BB, 5 K, 71 pitches (27 balls, 44 strikes)
Martinez lacked the crispness that he had in his first start of the Classic against Team Canada. It took him eighteen more pitches to throw four innings than it did in his first WBC start. He struggled with his command, reflected by his three walks and one hit batter, but as always, he also made some nasty pitches.
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He worked around his control issues and lack of efficiency to limit Puerto Rico to one earned run in four innings of work. Four of his five strikeouts were on swings and misses, three on the slider, and one on the changeup.
It was a solid, but not great start for Martinez. He didn’t have his best stuff, but it was encouraging to see him stifle the potential big inning considering he walked three and his defense committed a costly error behind him.
The Dominican team hoped to have Carlos on the mound for five or six innings, but his lack of efficiency limited him to four.
For a Cardinals fan watching the game with no international rooting interest, one of the more enjoyable parts of the evening was the interactions between Molina and Martinez when the two squared off from the batter’s box and the pitching mound. This was from Yadi’s second plate appearance against Carlos:
Since Martinez exceeded 50 pitches, he will be unavailable to pitch for the Dominican team for the next four days. In two World Baseball Classic starts, he’s allowed only one earned run in eight innings and has struck out eight.
The Dominican Republic’s next game is against Team Venezuela on Thursday. Team USA opens its second round of pool play Wednesday evening against Venezuela at 8:00 pm CST. The United States and Dominican Republic match up again on Saturday at 9:00 pm CST. The DR got the best of the USA in round one, winning 7-5.