Cramp, HR doom Martinez in first career start -

Cramp, HR doom Martinez in first career start

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By Scott Bierman By Scott Bierman

(BaseballStL) -- After dancing around danger for more than four innings, St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Carlos Martinez was dealt two blows on consecutive pitches in a 5-1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday.

In back-to-back pitches, Martinez gave up a 398-foot three-run blast to Los Angeles Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis followed by the final knockout punch, a cramp, which officially ended his first career big league start with two outs in the fifth inning. He allowed four runs on seven hits in 4.2 innings pitched.

“I thought overall he did a nice job,” manager Mike Matheny said. “His stuff is electric, there’s no question about that. He got into a spot where he almost got out of it and they hurt us with the long ball.”

Speaking through teammate Jon Jay as his translator, Martinez said the cramping in his hand occurred during a one-out walk issued to Adrian Gonzalez in the fifth inning. The 21-year-old rookie tried battling through the inning, but was tacked for a three-run home run on a 3-1 count to A.J. Ellis three batters later.

He threw one pitch to Juan Uribe before a trainer came out to the mound to check on his right index finger. It marked the end of his first big league start.

Although three of the four runs off Martinez came on one swing of the bat, it was a wildly inefficient start. He needed 68 pitches to get through the first three innings and walked three batters total.

The 42,567 fans in attendance saw a glimpse of the future as he topped out at 100 miles per hour in the first inning. His velocity dipped to 95 miles per hour by the 90th pitch and 93 miles per hour on the 97th pitch (the home run). He struck out two of the 24 batters faced in the game -- a far cry from the one out of every four he struck out at the minor league level.

“We talked about the efficiency with the young pitchers,” Martinez said. “Everyone’s wanting to be another strikeout guy so you’re not going to be too efficient at this point. It’s something they learn along the road.”

After previously lobbying Matheny for a start during his previous two stints with St. Louis, Martinez finally received his wish, which he didn’t find out until last minute.

“I make rounds every day and talk with the guys,” Matheny said. “I’ve been working on his English, he’ been working on my Spanish and that was one of the conversations we had one day. He was asking me what he needed to do and improve to start for this team one day.”

When asked what he told Martinez to improve on, Matheny said, “it was in Spanish so I don’t know.”

It wasn’t necessarily what he improved on during his latest trip with Memphis that got Martinez the start on Thursday. It was what happened on Wednesday night when the club used Thursday’s would-be starter Jake Westbrook as a reliever during a 13-4 loss to the Dodgers.

Martinez was on-board a trip to Reno to start a game with the Redbirds when he found out he was needed in St. Louis early Thursday morning.

Multiple flights, a 398-foot home run and a cramp later, Martinez had his first big league start.

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