ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- Carlos Martinez took the mound Wednesday looking for his ninth win. He eventually got it, turning in a deceptively dominant seven innings, but he really had to earn it.
After a double and a home run in the first inning, Martinez found himself down 2-0 after just three outs. He had allowed three hits and a walk in the first frame and looked like he may be on the verge of ending his string of dynamic outings.
He rebounded quickly, however, getting two quick outs in the second. Then, the whole game stopped.
Martinez stepped back from the mound and went down to one knee, initially looking overcome by heat. But as the cameras zoomed in, they caught a river of blood pouring from his nose.
“It was scary,” catcher Yadier Molina said. “When you see a lot of blood coming out, obviously it’s scary.”
The heat had triggered a nosebleed, something that happens to the 24-year-old when the temperatures rise to the extremes St. Louis’ July weather can reach.
“I woke up this morning with this same issue. I was scared during the game that it might happen again and it happened,” Martinez said through a translator. “It always seems to happen to me when it’s really hot outside.”
The thermostat was well into the nineties and the heat index had climbed over 100 by the time the second inning began.
The medical staff crowded around the young pitcher, a collection of trainers and doctors, trying to find a way to stop the bleeding. As the break in the game wore on, it was clear they were having trouble.
“They put all kinds of stuff up there,” Mike Matheny said, noting the team couldn’t withstand a starter going out in the second inning of a double header. “We were going to sit there and plug it until he could pitch. There wasn’t another option.”
After nearly 10 minutes, it was a combination of Vaseline and cotton that eventually did the trick. Despite the blood loss and the scorching sun, Martinez eventually toed the rubber again.
“I wasn’t thinking that (would happen),” Molina said. “I was thinking he was done, but obviously he’s a tough kid.”
From there, Martinez rolled. He finished seven innings on 89 pitches, allowing just one hit in the final six innings. He struck out five and got 10 groundouts, effectively silencing the San Diego offense.
“It really helped me stay focused after the fact,” he said of the nosebleed. “I was really trying to stay in the game and keep my mind in the game where it should be. I felt like my stuff got better after.”
“He starting pitching a little bit,” added Matheny. “He started using his breaking ball in tough counts, then he reared back and threw a 98 mile per hour sinker. He had a lot of stuff today.”
The Cardinals would homer three times for a 4-2 win, giving Martinez nine victories on the year.
It’s his ninth straight start of three runs or less, and all such outings would have been at least six innings were it not for him being pulled early in Milwaukee before the All Star break. In that game he went five innings but struck out 11 and allowed four hits in an 8-1 Cardinal victory. His ERA is now 2.83, far and away the lowest among the starting rotation. With Adam Wainwright returning to form in grand fashion and Mike Leake quietly finding his form, the Cardinals are rapidly approaching the rotation they thought they would have when the year began.
“I like where the starters are,” Matheny said this week. “We put a lot of pressure on them. They set the tone for our club. That’s kind of what we expect. Not to take it for granted, but that’s what they expect of themselves at well.”
After struggling mightily through April and May, the Cardinals have posted the second best ERA in the National league and June and are third in the NL in July. With the Dodgers reeling from Clayton Kershaw’s injury, St. Louis has a chance to make headway in the Wild Card standings. The rotation has stopped the bleeding (on Wednesday, literally). Now they just need to keep the wound closed.