ST. LOUIS -- Starting pitcher Carlos Martinez was holed up in a hospital room by the time Marcell Ozuna muscled a home run -- his third in three days -- to punctuate the finish of a 5-4, 10-inning victory over the Rockies at Busch Stadium. And the contrast was striking.
A season already twice interrupted by injury took another undesirable turn when Martinez walked off the mound ailing again. He'll be back on the disabled list one day after coming off of it, while the Cardinals sift through test results to determine whether a succession of injuries might all be related.
But while momentum may have stalled again for Martinez, Ozuna continues to accelerate. Twice robbed of hits by left fielder Gerardo Parra on Monday, Ozuna deposited one that only the stands would stop. The solo homer off Jake McGee with one out in the 10th was Ozuna's first walk-off homer since he stung the Cardinals' Class A affiliate with one while in the Marlins' organization.
"So many times, I've had that situation before and I couldn't get it," Ozuna said after the team's eighth walk-off victory of the season. "Today was a time that God gave me an opportunity to do that."
With the victory, the Cardinals crept closer to the Rockies in a crowded National League Wild Card race, but now must also prepare to pivot in their pitching plans. The one area the Cardinals felt most confident building around as they retool their roster may now be another area exposed if Martinez is absent for any length of time.
Interim manager Mike Shildt described the strain as "mild," and relayed that an early read of the MRI showed no structural damage. The organization expects to have a more thorough diagnosis Tuesday.
"That was disappointing," Shildt said. "That was vintage what we want to see out of Carlos. He was, from pitch one, in full attack mode with quality stuff throughout. He got into jams a little bit, was able to pitch out and make pitches. That was first-rate, front-of-the-line rotation stuff right there."
Injuries have already twice disrupted Martinez's season. He missed a month earlier this year with a right lat strain and skipped a start last week while nursing an oblique injury. Shildt and pitching coach Mike Maddux sensed something wasn't right on Monday when they saw his fastball velocity, which reached 97 mph early, top out at 90.4-mph in the fifth inning.
A mound visit confirmed their fears.
"He just said, 'My shoulder is sore, but I can go,'" Shildt said. "Clearly, we're not going to let him go."
His hasty exit forced Daniel Poncedeleon into an unexpected spot that got complicated when he didn't get a favorable call on a 1-2 pitch to Ian Desmond. Desmond later walked, and Nolan Arenado clubbed an 0-1 pitch into the stands. It was the first time in franchise history that a pitcher served up a grand slam on the first Major League hit he allowed. In his only other appearance for the Cardinals, Poncedeleon had twirled seven no-hit innings.
"I was in panic mode a little bit," said Poncedeleon, whose last relief appearance was three years ago. "They told me to take my time, but I still think I kind of rushed it a little."
But the Cardinals chipped away at the four-run deficit immediately. Jedd Gyorko halted Tyler Anderson's run of 12 consecutive batters retired when he led off the bottom of the fifth with his eighth home run. Anderson then walked the bases loaded in the seventh to set up a three-run frame for St. Louis. Matt Carpenter's two-out, two-run single tied the game.
"There's something in the salsa," Gyorko said. "I've tried it. It's pretty good."
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Cardinals used their replay review to erase a Rockies run and end the sixth inning with Parra being thrown out at home plate. Initially ruled safe after trying to score from third on a Poncedeleon wild pitch, Parra saw the call overturned following a 70-second review. At the time, the Rockies had runners on the corners and Anderson batting with two out.
"We felt like that was worth a shot based on score and based on inning," Shildt said. "And clearly, if we can take a run off the board, we have to take a chance. Big play. Huge play."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Rookie reliever Dakota Hudson set the stage for Ozuna's dramatic swing by working around a walk and a single in the top of the 10th. Hudson ended the threat with a strikeout of Tom Murphy. His appearance capped another strong showing from the team's reconstructed bullpen. After the hiccup by Poncedeleon, the 'pen combined to cover six scoreless innings. Hudson was rewarded with his first Major League win.
"If I could get Marcell's home run ball, I'd love it, but I don't think I'm going to get that one," Hudson said. "I'd lose every bit of money I had to get that ball."
The Cardinals tied their largest comeback of the season by climbing out of a four-run hole. They did so previously on May 5 vs. the Cubs in a game they also won with a walk-off home run.
HE SAID IT
"It was close. It was a close pitch, and it was a close check [swing]. I'm a little too early in my tenure to venture any further than that." -- Shildt, on whether he felt Poncedeleon should have been out of the fifth with a strikeout of Desmond
Once the 3 p.m. CT non-waiver Trade Deadline passes on Tuesday, the Cardinals and Rockies will meet in a 7:15 p.m. CT game at Busch Stadium. Jack Flaherty (4-5, 3.28 ERA) will be making his first career appearance against the Rockies. The Cardinals have lost six of his last seven starts, during which Flaherty has pitched beyond the fifth just twice. The Rockies will counter with righty Jon Gray (8-7, 5.16 ERA).