It wasn't Carlos Martinez' best, and neither was it his worst. But with the help of an outstanding bullpen, he and the Cards managed to eke out their first win of 2020 against the San Diego Padres.
With Paul Goldschmidt, Paul DeJong and Lane Thomas all unavailable (and only Goldy on the injured list), the trio of Dylan Carlson, Tommy Edman and Yadier Molina stepped up to propel St. Louis (18-12) to a 6-4 victory Wednesday night.
Dineson Lamet, who had a couple strong outings already this year for the Friars, surrendered all the Cardinals runs. He coughed up two runs in three odd-numbered innings, and when he departed after five, the Redbirds held a 6-2 lead.
The Padres were able to plate a couple off four Cardinals relievers, who were, in succession, Daniel Poncedeleon, Andrew Miller, John Brebbia and Ryan Helsley. Brebbia was the only one who coughed up runs, giving two in the eighth. Helsley was perfect for the save in the ninth.
The fifth inning proved to be the ultimate difference. Up 4-2 going into that frame, Molina lumbered to second on a double into the left-field corner, and Carlson, with two outs, slammed his second career homer to stretch the Cards lead to four.
The Padres had pulled to within two in the fourth off CMart, who had been impressively perfect through three. But leadoff hitter Fermando Tatis Jr crushed the first pitch of the inning for a massive, 442-foot homer, and then successive one-out doubles by Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer brought the tally to 4-2.
The Cards had stormed to a 4-0 lead after three. In the first, Edman doubled, stole third and scrambled home on a short sacrifice fly by Tyler O'Neill. Then Molina homered to create a 2-0 lead.
The third featured Edman again. This time, he walked, and so did O'Neill. They advanced to second and third on a Lamet wild pitch, and Molina drove them both home with a sharp single to right, on which O'Neill barely and smartly eluded the tag by catcher Francisco Mejia, after a strong throw by right fielder Franchy Cordero.
Martinez was mostly out of gas after five. He was seen protesting to pitching coach Mike Maddux in the dugout as the Cards were batting in the sixth, but as Maddux said, not all two-run outings are the same.
"He was struggling, throwing too many pitches, not hitting his targets," said Maddux. "Yadi knew. Yadi always knows. I could lose my job tomorrow and there'd be a pitching coach on the field. In this case, we saw it, too, and it was time."
Poncedeleon, relegated to the pen after a couple early-season starts, was perfect in the sixth, as he struck out the side. And Miller gave up a hit and a walk, but induced center fielder Trent Grisham to pop up with two men on.
The only blip was Brebbia, and in truth, it wasn't much his fault. A swinging bunt single to Jurickson Profar was followed by a Mejia multi-hopper that handcuffed Kolten Wong.
With two on and no one out, Cordero singled home Profar with a grounder perfectly placed beween Edman and shortstop Brad Miller. Then Mejia came home on a fly ball off the bat of pinch hitter Brian Dozier.
"I don't think I've ever had such a bad result from such good pitches," said Brebbia. "They hit nothing solid. I did exactly what I wanted. Yadi even said so when he talked me down. But baseball, hey, sometimes bad things happen to good pitchers."
Next Up and Notes: The Cards could square the series Thursday afternoon. Adam Wainwright faces Garrett Richards. Shildt has already said he plans on spotting reserves, including Edmundo Sosa at second and Matt Wieters at catcher. Shildt has also had Dexter Fowler take some reps at first base in warmups, so don't be surprised if we see a lineup that includes Fowler, Bader, O'Neill and Carlson all in the game. DeJong is still on track for a weekend start in Milwaukee. Lane Thomas, with negative X-rays, is day to day after his high ankle strain last night.