The St. Louis Cardinals can capture their first season sweep of the Miami Marlins with a victory in Sunday’s series finale.
With Carlos Martinez taking the ball for the Cardinals and David Phelps pitching for the Marlins, a St. Louis season sweep appears inevitable.
The Cardinals (75-41) moved 34 games over .500 for the first time since finishing 100-62 in 2005 with Saturday’s 6-2 victory, their eighth in 10 games.
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Stephen Piscotty, the No. 6 hitter, had two doubles and No. 8 batter Mark Reynolds had a three-run homer and a double for St. Louis, which became the fastest team to 75 wins since the 2011 Philadelphia Phillies did it in one fewer contest.
While the Cardinals don’t have much trouble winning regardless of who starts, they’ve been virtually unbeatable with Martinez (12-4, 2.62 ERA) on the mound.
St. Louis is 18-3 in Martinez’s starts for an .857 team winning percentage – the best for a pitcher with a minimum of 15 starts. Since May 20, Martinez has the majors’ fifth-best ERA at 1.76 with the Cardinals winning 13 of his 14 outings.
The right-hander, who also has baseball’s fifth-best ERA in day games at 1.47, has won five consecutive decisions as a starter since losing to Minnesota on June 17.
Six days later he made his only career start against Miami, surrendering a two-run homer to Giancarlo Stanton and one other run while striking out nine over seven innings in a 4-3 victory.
If trying to beat Martinez isn’t enough of an obstacle for the Marlins (46-70) – losers of 15 of 20 – history is not on their side with Phelps (4-8, 4.35) pitching.
Miami is 5-13 in Phelps’ outings for a .278 winning percentage – the lowest for a pitcher with a minimum of 15 starts. The Marlins have lost 11 of his last 13 and skipped his last turn since he is 3 1-3 innings shy of matching last season’s career high of 113.
"We just want to make sure we are smart on how we approach it," manager Dan Jennings told MLB’s official website.
Phelps is also coming off a rough outing, permitting seven runs, eight hits and three walks in 4 1-3 innings of an 8-6 loss to the New York Mets on Aug. 5. The righty had a 3.57 ERA in his previous four starts but received three total runs of support and was saddled with an 0-3 record.
The Cardinals are also being careful with Martinez’s innings in order to keep him fresh for the playoffs, but manager Mike Matheny said the 23-year-old right-hander was simply too good to take out Tuesday against Pittsburgh. Martinez allowed three runs while matching career highs of eight innings and 108 pitches in a 4-3 win.
"I feel confident," Martinez said. "This year I came here to work hard, throw as many innings as I can pitch and try to help the Cardinals make it to the World Series."
Like Martinez, Randal Grichuk is another Cardinal who has essentially come out of nowhere and is playing so well the team is already talking about the World Series.
Grichuk hit his 15th homer Saturday and is batting .356 with six home runs and a 1.162 OPS in his last 16 games at Busch Stadium. This will be his first time facing Phelps.
Miami’s Ichiro Suzuki unofficially moved into second place on the all-time hit list Saturday, singling in the first inning for his 4,192nd career hit to pass Ty Cobb. Suzuki had 1,278 of his hits in nine seasons for the Orix Blue Wave in Japan.