It wasn't the first prize fight the Cardinals have had with the Reds, but it was a bit surprising this early in the season, and marred an otherwise well-played, 4-2 Cards win on Sunday in Cincinnati.
A home run and double by Dexter Fowler contributed three of the four runs, and Dylan Carlson, starting in left field, drove in his second run of the year by bringing home center fielder Harrison Bader.
And the bullpen shone today, with Tyler Webb, for the second time, contributing a strong bridge. He finished the sixth and pitched the entire seventh without incident, and John Brebbia captured the last two innings with only a brief scare.
But the unfortunate story today, for better or worse, was Carlos Martinez. His presence on the mound was cut short by a one out ejection in the sixth inning. His third hit by pitich was the immediate cause, but there was plenty of foreshadowing beyond his prior warning from home plate umpire Angel Hernandez.
From the outset, CMart had great stuff, but the problem was, he had great stuff. His breaking balls were both unhittable and uncontrollable. While he wasn't overtly emotional as he sometimes can be, the results spoke for themselves -- 71 pitches, only 36 for strikes, with six strikeouts, four walks and three hit batsmen.
Yadier Molina's usual magic cajoling with the Cards right hander wasn't in evidence, perhaps because of his shift to first base for this outing. Spotted to an early lead on a Dexter Fowler double plating leadoff hitter Tommy Edman, Martinez' troubles began almost immediately.
He hit Shogo Akiyama and walked Joey Votto. He then struck out two before retiring Jesse Winker, who hit a soft fly ball to right on a low inside slider.
Though it was apparent Martinez couldn't find the plate, when he hit Nick Castellanos with two out and no one on in the fourth, Hernandez gave Martinez a warning.
At the same time, Reds manager David Bell, who had been unhappy with Carlos' lack of command and near misses an inning earlier, shouted something rather unseemly from the dugout. Martinez glanced over, but it was clear he was as unhappy with himself as with Bell.
That changed in the sixth.
Having retired pinch hitter and two-way threat Michael Lorenzen, Martinez plunked Akiyama (again) square in the high ribcage. Hernandez tossed the righty, Bell came out of the Reds dugout screaming more niceties, and the obligatory bench-clearing ensued.
It was perhaps a middleweight fight, as a few pushes and grabs were in evidence, but only one punch, a pop from workout fiend Tyler O'Neill to Mike Moustakas, was landed. O'Neill, who also was tossed, will almost surely land a suspension. But order was restored within about two minutes of the player flood onto the field.
Fights seem to energize one team over the other, and this time momentum favored the Cards. Down at that point 2-1 on Moustakas' second-inning homer, St. Louis charged back with three in the seventh.
Amir Garrett, who won his major league debut as a starter against the Cards in 2017, struck out Paul Dejong, then gave up a sharp single to Bader. Carlson followed with a sizzling gapper to right center batting from the right side, on which Bader easily scampered home.
After retiring pinch hitter Rangel Ravelo, Edman drew a base on balls against the lefty, Fowler, switching to the right side against the southpaw, lined a too-fat fastball over the shortest part of the left-field porch.
(It should be noted that Garrett, who was involved in two major scrapes last year versus the Pirates, played no part in this game's pugilistic exercises; all he was tagged with today was the loss).
The Reds (1-2) didn't threaten in the eighth against Brebbia, but he gave up a walk and a hit to start the ninth before a double play by Castellanos and a Tucker Barnhart lazy fly ended matters.
Notes: Matt Carpenter moved across the diamond to third as Molina grabbed his first baseman's mitt, while Matt Wieters caught for the Redbirds. Edman filled second base in place of Kolten Wong, who was a last minute scratch from a stomach ailment.
Up Next: The Cards travel to Milwaukee to face the Brewers. Brett Anderson will lead the home team. The Cardinals have not yet named their starter, but it is expected they will call up Austin Gomber for the series opener, with Daniel Poncedeleon slated for the second game and Flaherty with his second start in the finale. Adam Wainwright is the anticipated home opener starter for the Cards against the Orioles.