Cards need another strong start from Martinez

BY foxsports • September 9, 2016

ST. LOUIS -- After watching another loss low-lighted by poor starting pitching and shaky defense, St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny didn't sugarcoat the situation.

"We're going to have to clean it all up," he said.

Thursday night's 12-5 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers leaves St. Louis a full game behind San Francisco for the National League's first wild-card spot and a half-game back of the New York Mets for wild card No. 2.

Simply put, the Cardinals (73-66) are running out of time and chances to extend their MLB-best string of consecutive playoff seasons to six. The good news regarding Friday night's matchup with Milwaukee is that they can use their best starting pitcher this year.

Carlos Martinez (13-7, 3.07 ERA) is coming off a 5-2 win Sunday at Cincinnati in which he struggled with his control, giving up five walks in six-plus innings, but didn't give up a run until the seventh because he induced three double plays.

That's become a staple of Martinez's 26 starts -- the twin-killing. Martinez leads the National League with 30 double-play balls. Batters simply can't do much with his mid- to upper-90s sinker.

Meanwhile, hitters have been able to do plenty with the offerings of Brewers right-hander Jimmy Nelson (7-13, 4.36), who has struggled in his last 17 starts, going 2-10 with a 5.61 ERA.

Martinez owns two wins in three outings this year against Milwaukee -- all at Miller Park. The one game he didn't win, he left with the lead after fanning a career-high 13 batters in six innings on Aug. 29.

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As for Nelson, he's been drilled by St. Louis throughout his career (0-6, 7.57 ERA). Nelson is 0-1 this year in two starts, although he has a respectable 3.75 ERA.

However, the Brewers are looking more like playoff contenders at this point than the opponent that's chasing a postseason spot. Milwaukee has won seven of its last eight games, including two of three earlier in the week against the Chicago Cubs, and owns a season-high five-game road winning streak.

"We try to keep it loose," shortstop Orlando Arcia said through an interpreter when asked about the team's recent success. "You're always happy to be in a good streak. You're just going out there and having fun."

More than one pundit felt the Brewers were a candidate for 100 losses this year, but they clearly aren't tanking their way to the finish line. Milwaukee has showcased a nice blend of power and speed, cracking 163 homers and leading the NL with 159 steals.

While the Brewers still have work to do defensively and with their pitching, Cubs manager Joe Maddon likes the progress they have made.

"They continue to get it together on the field," he said after Wednesday night's 2-1 loss in Milwaukee. "I know we got them at home recently, but they are doing a lot of things well. You have to give them credit, man. And their bullpen, I keep saying it, they have some really nice arms."

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