Cardinals look to Martinez to continue his early-season mastery

For a moment Monday night, it looked like St. Louis Cardinals right fielder Dexter Fowler had followed his early Monday morning walk-off homer against the Chicago Cubs with another bomb in his first at-bat against the Minnesota Twins.

But left fielder Eddie Rosario stuck his glove just above the wall in left-center field and brought it back. That was pretty much it for the St. Louis offense, which managed only four hits in a 6-0 loss that snapped its five-game winning streak.

The Cardinals will try to salvage a split of the series in the finale of their seven-game homestand Tuesday at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

“That was probably the best ball Dex has hit the other way all season,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “It was probably a 2-2 game if (Rosario) doesn’t get to that ball. It took some wind out of our sails.”

Whether it was a letdown from an emotional sweep of Chicago or the fact that Minnesota rookie Fernando Romero simply overpowered St. Louis for the first six innings, the Cardinals looked flatter than a day-old fritter.

Regardless, St. Louis would appear to have a good chance to bounce back while sending ace Carlos Martinez (3-1, 1.40 ERA) to the mound. Martinez has ceded precisely three runs in his last six starts, looking like a Cy Young Award candidate since struggling on Opening Day at the New York Mets.

In Martinez’s last outing Wednesday, he sailed through 7 1/3 innings against the Chicago White Sox, allowing five hits and a run with two walks and five strikeouts in a 3-2 win.

Martinez even helped himself with the bat, clouting his first big-league homer in the sixth inning to snap a scoreless tie.

“I never hit a home run in my life,” Martinez told mlb.com. “I was waiting for it.”

It was no cheapie. Martinez drilled a Lucas Giolito pitch 407 feet into the seats in left-center field, traditionally an area of Busch where the ball doesn’t carry well. Martinez followed with a slow-motion home run trot that probably evoked tears of admiration from the likes of Yoenis Cespedes and David Ortiz.

In the job he’s paid to do, Martinez has been almost peerless. He has been able to craft instead of throw, mixing speeds like a true pitcher and getting quicker outs by relying more on a two-seam fastball.

“We’ve seen seven starts at that next tier,” Matheny said to mlb.com after Martinez beat the White Sox. “That’s consistently the type of stuff and execution that puts you on a different level.”

Jake Odorizzi (2-2, 4.10) gets the call for the Twins in a homecoming of sorts. Odorizzi hails from Highland, Illinois, about 30 miles east of St. Louis, and figures to have a large following in the ballpark. He is 1-1 with a 3.24 ERA in three career starts against his hometown team.

Odorizzi was no-decisioned Thursday night at the White Sox, giving up six hits and five runs (three earned) in 5 1/3 innings. He was presented with an early 4-0 advantage and failed to make it stick.

“You’re supposed to keep the lead, and I didn’t do my job,” Odorizzi said to mlb.com.