Cardinals’ Martinez at his best when he can harness the heat

Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez is riding a 14-inning scoreless streak. 

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ST. LOUIS — Carlos Martinez did everything he needed to do to earn his fifth win of the season.

Seven shutout innings matched a career high for the 23-year-old right-hander in what he deemed his best start of the season. Arizona struck out eight times as Martinez didn’t even allow an extra-base hit for his second straight game.

"To get through seven and be able to make some tough pitches when he had to, he had some of that consistency today," manager Mike Matheny said afterward. "It was great to see."

Still, Matheny didn’t consider sending Martinez back out for the eighth after 97 pitches, and it took the Diamondbacks just two batters against reliever Kevin Siegrist to erase a 2-0 lead. The first home run against Siegrist in 22 appearances this season hardly diminished the importance of Martinez’s efforts, especially when St. Louis won 3-2 on Jhonny Peralta’s home run in the 10th.

Arizona couldn’t even get a man to second base in the first four innings, and Martinez quickly erased Yasmany Tomas’ leadoff single in the second with a double play on the second pitch to Chris Owings. Excluding Ender Inciarte’s shallow pop-up caught by Matt Holliday in left to start the game, the Diamondbacks failed to hit a flyball to the outfield before Tomas’ hard line drive to center to end the sixth.

That would be the only time Arizona put the ball in play in five at-bats with runners in scoring position, including three in the fifth after Tomas and Owings led off the inning with singles. Martinez responded by striking out the next three batters to end the threat.

"My sinker today was really good, so I just tried to stay calmed down and do what I was doing before," Martinez said through an interpreter. "I get (excited) because I can strike out three guys in a row, so it was good."

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He also gave credit to injured ace Adam Wainwright for some valuable pitching advice. The veteran right-hander told Martinez to just stay focused on the game and keep listening to All-Star catcher Yadier Molina.

That simple formula combined with Martinez’s electric stuff helped him extend his scoreless streak to 14 innings, including the entirety of his last two starts. In six of nine starts this season, he’s pitched at least six innings while allowing two or fewer runs.

Matheny said Martinez continues to be at his best when he understands throwing harder isn’t always the answer, as he did in the fifth to get out of the jam without ever topping 95 miles per hour. A fastball at 93 might be better than one at 100, since it gives him more control and doesn’t impair his mechanics.

"It’s not just the gun," Matheny said. "It’s the effort level. Sometimes you see him almost fall down he’s throwing so hard and the velocity isn’t that much better, but the location’s scattered. It’s just a matter of him getting to the point of truly believing."

Judging by Monday’s start, he keeps getting closer. 

You can follow Luke Thompson on Twitter at @FS_LukeT or email him at lukegthompson87@gmail.com.