ST. LOUIS -- As he headed to the dugout after breezing through a seven-pitch seventh against the Phillies on Saturday, Carlos Martinez realized what was in sight. This, he determined, would be the day he'd finally finish what he started.The achievement of a complete game, which had eluded Martinez over
ST. LOUIS -- As he headed to the dugout after breezing through a seven-pitch seventh against the Phillies on Saturday, Carlos Martinez realized what was in sight. This, he determined, would be the day he'd finally finish what he started.
The achievement of a complete game, which had eluded Martinez over the first 80 starts of his career, arrived in the form of a shutout. Martinez sensed it in the seventh, begged for the chance at it after the eighth and then, with a shrinking leash, sealed the 7-0 win with a groundout in the ninth.
"This was one of my goals, one of my dreams," Martinez said, unable to wipe a smile off his face. "I just feel so happy with my performance."
A day that ended like no other for Martinez actually got off to an unusual start, too. Martinez hosted a video crew in his home for a documentary piece on his upbringing and career, and he was late getting to the ballpark, getting to Busch Stadium about an hour before his scheduled first pitch. Upon arriving, he learned that Yadier Molina would not be behind the plate.
Eric Fryer, who had never caught Martinez outside of Spring Training, stepped in behind the plate. It was a seamless transition.
"He pretty much threw whatever he wanted to when he wanted to," Fryer said. "He's always got the stuff, it's just a matter of if he can control it the whole game."
Six innings into his start, Martinez said he "realized this team has no chance against me." An inning later, he started sniffing the complete game. He was through eight innings on 93 pitches, at which time manager Mike Matheny found him in the dugout.
Martinez asked for the chance. Matheny gave him 15 pitches.
"It is something that they just feel like they need to conquer," Matheny said. "That's a big deal."
Martinez opened the ninth with two strikeouts, the second of which came on a 100.2 mph fastball. Since 2008, only one other starting pitcher (Justin Verlander) had hit 100 mph in the ninth inning.
When Tommy Joseph followed with a two-out single, Martinez glanced into the dugout. Matheny didn't budge. He intended to give Martinez one more batter.
Maikel Franco's groundout on a 1-0 slider sealed the game on Martinez's 14th pitch of the frame.
"Pretty filthy," Phillies outfielder Aaron Altherr said.
Martinez had been oh-so-close to checking the accomplishment off his list a month ago when he twirled nine scoreless innings against the Giants. He had to settle for a no-decision, however, since his offense couldn't muster a run of support.
In becoming the first Cardinals pitcher to notch a complete game this year, Martinez highlighted why the Cardinals believe he's a budding ace in this rotation. The Phillies did not advance a runner as far as third, and with 11 strikeouts, Martinez became the first Cards pitcher since Adam Wainwright (2010) with four straight starts of at least eight strikeouts. He finished with a pitch count of 107.
Martinez's slider was especially effective, as it induced five swing-and-misses and 10 called strikes. He complemented it with a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball and changeup to keep the Phillies guessing.
Afterward, Wainwright was among the first to reach Martinez on the mound. There, the two embraced.
"It's funny, because in the dugout, we're always joking around and he asks me, 'Carlos, when are you going to throw your complete game?'" Martinez said. "I was finally able to do it."
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter, and Facebook.