Want composure from your ace? You didn’t have to look hard to find it in Carlos Martinez Tuesday night.
Prior to his fielding a comebacker off the bat of Tommy La Stella in the fourth inning, Martinez’s struggles throwing the baseball through any other process besides plain old pitching had been well documented this season. Martinez throwing errors or ‘throws not made’ have cost his team numerous runs in recent months. Even the inning prior, on a quick spin and throw behind the runner, Martinez bounced one to DeJong covering second base.
But this time, with the bases loaded and nobody out, he executed just like you always expect him to.
A perfect strike to the Carson Kelly at home. Kelly fires to first. Double play.
Except it wasn’t. Even when Martinez did his part defensively, the baseball gods found another way to make things go awry.
La Stella nicked Kelly’s mitt on the swing, and was awarded first base. Instead of pitching with two outs and the chance to keep the Cubs off the scoreboard with any variety of popup, groundout or strikeout, both outs Martinez thought he had earned were wiped from the board, and a run for the visitors was added.
When he noticed the interference call had been made, Martinez raised his arms like many of the red-clad patrons in the stadium. But then, he got down to business.
“I really tried not to let it get me off the path,” Martinez said through his translator. “When Lilly came to the mound he said some really positive things that helped me stay on track and try to stay focused.”
Ben Zobrist—whiff. Kris Bryant—whiff. Six pitches and two strikeouts later, Martinez was again just an out away. He induced a harmless grounder to second, and his Houdini act was complete.
“He came up big there with those two strikeouts right after it,” Kelly said. “He bore down when he needed to.”
Martinez got five outs and gave one run—unearned in every sense of the word. Like many in Cardinal Nation, his manager recognized Tuesday was a grind for Martinez, but he came away impressed with his ability to hold things together and keep his team on top.
“I though he was much more even-keeled today than we’ve seen in a while,” Mike Matheny said. “He knew that he was really going to trust himself. He didn’t have Yadi back there to guide him. I know he was dong a lot of grinding mentally as much as he was physically to think his way through every situation, whatever it was he wanted to accomplish. He kept us in that game and he did a nice job.”
Martinez was far from perfect Tuesday night. He labored through innings. He didn’t even complete five of them. He struggled keeping Cubs off the base paths for much of his outing. He gave up a few runs.
But when it came time to bear down—when failure to execute meant the loss of the lead and possibly the game and the season—Martinez dug in, preserving the sliver of hope that his team can extend its season past Sunday.
And Martinez thinks they can.
Again through his translator, Martinez expressed his excitement over Tuesday’s win in light of a clubhouse meeting that took place before the game in which he said Matheny addressed the team. Martinez said his manager raised the morale of the group, expressing his belief in the team and their capabilities.
Whether or not the whole team found the speech as stirring as Martinez did, it clearly worked on him.
“I really think that after today we’re not going to lose another game," he said.