1-hit Cards: 'Sometimes you have to tip the cap'

Martínez ends no-hit bid with pinch-hit single in eighth

October 12th, 2019

ST. LOUIS -- The same Cardinals lineup that strung together 10 runs just two days ago in the game that got them to this point was considerably quieter in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series.

Nationals starter held the Cardinals hitless until he had two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning, when pinch-hitter singled up the middle. But Martínez was the lone Cardinal to collect a hit in the 2-0 loss Friday night at Busch Stadium, putting the Cardinals in an early 1-0 hole in the NLCS.

Sánchez's no-hit bid was the seventh in postseason history broken up in the eighth inning, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. When Sánchez exited, he turned to salute Martínez -- a fellow Venezuelan -- for being the one to chase him from the game after 103 pitches.

"I didn't look at him, for the respect from my part, I couldn't look at him," Martínez said. "But for sure I'm going to text him. My teammates told me he was trying to say good job, but I didn't want to look at him because I have a lot of respect for him.

"In that situation, I was just thinking to put the ball in play. It was a great game. Sometimes you have to tip the cap."

On the wrong side of history was certainly not the way the Cardinals would have liked to start the NLCS at home. But Sánchez fooled the Cardinals' hitters with a similar strategy that has worked for opposing pitchers before.

Sánchez worked the corners and kept hitters off-balance with his offspeed pitches. The Cardinals managed just one hard-hit ball (exit velocity of 95 mph or more, according to Statcast) against Sánchez -- 's 105 mph fly out to deep center field in the second. And they were unable to capitalize on the few mistakes Sánchez made -- when reached third on a walk and stolen base, and when reached third after being hit, stealing second and taking third on a groundout.

"We've got to find a way to do a little better when we're facing guys that can do this kind of pitching," said. "We've hit some guys that are offspeed-heavy before. Just, tonight, if you watched that game -- I mean the guy just never threw any ball over the middle of the plate. Balls on the corner and changing speeds and making it hard on the hitters. Sometimes you've just got to give credit to the pitcher and tonight was one of them."

The Cardinals planned for Sánchez's changeup because he leaned on the pitch heavily against the Dodgers in their NL Division Series against the Nats.

He threw four on Friday.

Instead, he leaned more on his fastball, while also mixing in his splitter, cutter and sinker. And it worked.

"I just want to be out of the power zone of those guys," Sánchez said. "Every mistake -- if you make a mistake against those guys they're pretty strong, they can change the score in one swing. I just tried to keep the ball on the corners, my two-seamer was working really good today, and we used it a lot."

Sánchez's execution sets up a blueprint for the rest of the Nationals' rotation, starting with on Saturday in Game 2. Offspeed pitches can deceive the Cardinals, especially ones on the corners.

"You just gotta not chase pitches," said. "[Sánchez] does a good job of making his pitches look good, and then in the last second falling out of the zone. We just need to do a better job of that, being patient and taking good swings."

It's worth noting that the 10-run inning against the Braves in Game 5 of the NLDS came off five hits and the Cardinals capitalizing on mistakes. They scored three runs in the second and third innings, but the offense had two hits after the third inning Wednesday.

Yet Cardinals manager Mike Shildt was adamant that he won't suddenly change the lineup after one poor game.

"I can do anything within reason with our roster to put our lineup out," Shildt said. "I just, I find the question -- I understand the question, but I find it interesting when essentially the same lineup just scored 13 runs. … I'm not going to be knee-jerk with one game when we just got through winning a series. And we have gotten to this point with the group that we have, with guys that have taken good at-bats."