Heyward-Miller deal may have benefited Carlos Martinez the most

BY foxsports • July 25, 2015

The St. Louis Cardinals traded Shelby Miller to the Atlanta Braves during the offseason, giving Carlos Martinez a chance to take his place in the starting rotation.

Martinez has not only won a spot in the rotation, but he's been the Cardinals' best starter.

Martinez looks to continue his dominance Saturday night when he takes the mound opposite Miller and the visiting Braves.

Miller (5-6, 2.33 ERA) spent his first three years with St. Louis (62-34) and went 25-18 with a 3.41 ERA as a starter in the last two. The Cardinals sent him to Atlanta (45-51) in a deal for Jason Heyward and the move may have benefited Martinez (10-4, 2.51) the most.

The right-hander has the lowest ERA in the St. Louis rotation and is second in strikeouts (115) after spending his first two years making 70 of 78 appearances out of the bullpen.

Martinez, a first-time All-Star this year, is 7-2 with a 1.26 ERA over his last 11 games, holding opponents to two runs or fewer in nine of the 10 starts over that span. He was pressed into relief duty during Sunday's 3-1, 18-inning loss to the New York Mets, giving up two runs -- one earned -- in the final four.

Martinez has tossed 2 2/3 scoreless innings in four relief outings against Atlanta.

The Cardinals are 6-1 since the break and won their fourth straight with a 4-2 victory in Friday's series opener.

Randal Grichuk is hitting .380 with 13 RBIs in the last 13 games. All four of his homers over that stretch have come in four home games, going 8 for 17 with 10 RBIs. He's connected for two-run shots in each of the last two games, totaling four hits.

"I just went up there trying to be aggressive in the strike zone," Grichuk said of his second-inning homer Friday. "I got some pitches I thought I could handle and I swung at them."

The Braves have lost six straight on the road for the second time during a 3-12 stretch as the visitor. They haven't endured a longer road skid since dropping eight straight from July 29-Aug. 6.

Miller gets the ball looking to end his own losing streak in his first meeting with the Cardinals. The right-hander is 0-5 with a 3.15 ERA in 11 starts since tossing a two-hitter in a 6-0 win at Miami on May 17. He's 0-1 with a 5.16 ERA in his past four road starts.

Miller was charged with a 4-1 home loss to the Chicago Cubs on Sunday, allowing three runs -- one earned -- with eight strikeouts and four walks in six innings.

Nick Markakis is 13 for 29 in seven career meetings with St. Louis. He singled Friday and is 5 for 15 with three extra-base hits in the past four games.

Atlanta dealt Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson to the Mets for minor league pitchers Robert Whalen and John Gant on Friday. Uribe and Johnson were scheduled to be free agents this winter, and the rebuilding Braves may already be starting to look toward next season since they're seven games back of San Francisco in the wild-card race.

Steve Cishek could make his Cardinals debut after being acquired in a trade from Miami for Double A pitcher Kyle Barraclough on Friday. Cishek has allowed one earned run in 12 2/3 innings over his last 13 appearances following a stint in the minors after losing his job as the Marlins' closer.

St. Louis' 2.67 ERA is the lowest in the majors and the club's best since a 2.49 mark in 1968.