St. Louis Cardinals: Carlos Martinez showing signs of consistency

ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 10: Pitching coach Mike Maddux
ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 10: Pitching coach Mike Maddux /

For the second start in a row, the St. Louis Cardinals’ ace looked every bit of the pitcher the teams needs him to be this season.

Somehow March 29th feels a long time ago. I mean it was only two weeks ago we saw a struggling Carlos Martinez issue six walks in 4.1 innings pitched while giving up four earned runs to start his 2018 season. Since then, Martinez has led the St. Louis Cardinals pitching staff the way he should, the way he knows how.

I know it’s still early in the season (just about anyone’s excuse for something this season), but Martinez is showing signs of consistency I, and many others, said he needed to do this season to take a step forward. We all saw last year his struggles to get out of the first few innings without any damage done. By the looks of his first start, you’d think those same problems carried over to this season as well.

However, his last two starts have been different.  Martinez has pushed through those growing pains, showing glimpses of his best self.

Last week in Milwaukee Martinez reminded the St. Louis Cardinals fans why he is their best pitcher. He tossed 8.1 innings, without giving up a single run. He also struck out ten batters and issued only two walks. If it wasn’t for an unfortunate error, Martinez was probably looking at his first complete game shutout of the season after throwing his first two last season.

He completely erased any memory of his struggles against a good Mets team and wiped the Brewers clean off in second start. Even then, you weren’t sure if the “good” Martinez was back to stay. But that just speaks to volatility of his starts.

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Five days later, he starts against the Brewers again, without one of their starters, but pitches another masterpiece. Sure, he gave up a home run to Eric Thames in the first inning, but Martinez limited the Brewers to practically nothing until the seventh inning. It wasn’t the dominating performance you saw in Milwaukee, but it was good enough to get the ball to the bullpen in a winnable game.

In his last two starts, Martinez has thrown 14.1 innings, giving up only ten hits, for an ERA of 0.63. He has struck out 14 batters and issued only four walks for a 3.5 K/BB rate. He’s held opponents batting average to a mere .192 and total OPs of .526. If you’re thinking, “Okay, so what?,” Martinez is in the same company as Max Scherzer.

Scherzer, in his last two starts, has thrown 14 innings, including a complete game shutout, giving up two earned runs for a 1.29 ERA. He struck out a whopping 17 batters while only walking two for a 8.5 K/BB rate. Scherzer held opponents to a .160 batting average and a .472 OPS.

While we may think Martinez isn’t necessarily in the top echelon of pitchers in the National League, he is showing he can hang with them right now. But it will still all fall back on what will he do next time. It’s a fair criticism, but at this point, I think Martinez is turning the corner.

His next start comes against a struggling Reds team, but that doesn’t mean it is a night to take off. Martinez will need to continue to show signs of consistency. For me that means continuing to get deep into games with minimal damage. If Martinez is able to string together a third consecutive start with at least six innings pitched and less than three earned runs on him, then I think you are seeing some of the best pitching Martinez has to offer.

The next step for Martinez is consistency in big games or against big teams, in particular the playoff teams from last season. He did not do so well against the Cubs last season, so that will be something to keep an eye on for 2018. It looks like he will miss the first series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs, but will start in the second series against he Cubs at home in May.

Until then, Martinez needs to keep doing what he is doing. The St. Louis Cardinals sure don’t mind.

Next: Carpenter walks off in the 11th

Here’s hoping Carlos Martinez has indeed turned the corner to more consistent success. The St. Louis Cardinals need that especially with the amount of young starters soon to be in the rotation.