NEW YORK — The New York Yankees hardly squared up a ball against Carlos Martinez and the St. Louis Cardinals.
The way he was pitching, they didn’t need to.
Looking like both an All-Star ace and a wayward journeyman, Martinez put on a historically uneven performance, walking a career-high eight while striking out 11 and handing CC Sabathia and the Yankees a 3-2 win Saturday.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi agreed.
“One of the stranger lines that I’ve seen,” he said.
The Yankees won their sixth straight despite tying a team record by fanning 17 times. They got plenty of help from sloppy St. Louis, which at 3-8 is off to its worst start in 20 years and has the poorest record in the NL.
Martinez’s misadventures on the mound also included airmailing a tapper to the backstop and throwing a wild pitch. He became the first Cardinals pitcher with eight walks and 11 Ks in a game since the aptly named Wild Bill Hallahan in 1930.
“I wasn’t really able to execute the pitches the way I wanted to,” Martinez said through a translator.
His troubles stood in sharp contrast to Sabathia (2-0), who took a shutout into the eighth. Jedd Gyorko and Stephen Piscotty homered late for St. Louis.
Martinez (0-2) couldn’t be touched at the start, and not always to his benefit. Of the first 12 batters, none put the ball in play.
The Cardinals’ Opening Day starter became the first pitcher in 60 years with at least six strikeouts and six walks through two innings, the Elias Sports Bureau said.
Not until Jacoby Ellsbury hit a leadoff single in the third, on Martinez’s 62nd pitch, did the Yankees give the Cardinals defense a chance. Often twisting and contorting when he missed the strike zone, Martinez was pulled after 5 1/3 innings.
“I thought we did a great job of just laying off some tough pitches,” said Chase Headley, who walked twice. “He’s got great stuff, and he was having a little bit of trouble getting into the zone.”
Martinez was the first pitcher since Randy Johnson in 1993 with at least eight walks and 11 strikeouts in a game. Three St. Louis relievers finished the game, and by the end, every New York batter had fanned.
Asked why Martinez was so erratic, a dour Matheny could only offer: “It’s a hard game. It’s a hard game.”
It was hardly the kind of pitching that gave the Cardinals their last win in the Bronx. That came in Game 5 of the 1964 World Series, when Bob Gibson threw all 10 innings and struck out 13. St. Louis is 0-5 in interleague play at the Yankees since.
New York got help in scoring twice in the sixth for a 3-0 lead. Ronald Torreyes led off with a routine fly that dropped for a double when the Cardinals lost it in the sun. Martinez later barehanded a comebacker and overthrow catcher Yadier Molina, trying to get Torreyes at the plate.
Gyorko homered with one out in the St. Louis eighth and finished Sabathia, who gave up three hits. The big lefty exited to loud ovation, exiting with a 1.47 ERA after three starts.
Sabathia earned his 225th victory, moving past Hall of Famers Catfish Hunter and Jim Bunning for 66th on the career list. Tyler Clippard got his first save despite Piscotty’s home run, striking out Randal Grichuk with two on to end it.
Cardinals announcer Tim McCarver clearly recalls the last time St. Louis won in the Bronx — it was his three-run homer in the 10th inning that produced a 5-2 victory on Oct. 12, 1964. McCarver’s shot sailed over hobbling right fielder Mickey Mantle.
“I remember watching Mantle limping toward the fence as I was running. It might’ve been a catchable ball if he was OK. But boy, I was 22 and what a thrill that was,” McCarver said in the broadcast booth.
St. Louis fielders had only one assist, the first time that’s happened for the Cardinals in a game since 1969. … The Yankees are 5-0 at home for the first time since 2000. … The Yankees are 1 for 30 with runners in scoring position over their last three games, all wins.
Yankees: DH Matt Holliday was scratched from the starting lineup against his former team because of lower back stiffness.
Cardinals: RHP Adam Wainwright (0-2, 7.00 ERA) pitches vs. the Yankees for the first time in the Sunday night game. He has 134 career wins, tied with Dizzy Dean for sixth on the all-time Cardinals list.
Yankees: RHP Michael Pineda (1-1, 3.97) took a perfect game into the seventh inning in his last start vs. Tampa Bay. He has never faced the Cardinals.