CINCINNATI -- Carlos Martinez struggled to find a feel for his fastball, causing his pitch count to soar early. As his command faltered, Martinez didn't make things easy on himself in the 3 2/3 innings he lasted in Sunday's 6-3 loss to the Reds at Great American Ball Park.The right-hander
CINCINNATI -- Carlos Martinez struggled to find a feel for his fastball, causing his pitch count to soar early. As his command faltered, Martinez didn't make things easy on himself in the 3 2/3 innings he lasted in Sunday's 6-3 loss to the Reds at Great American Ball Park.
The right-hander walked seven hitters and gave up five earned runs on four hits in his second start since returning from the disabled list from a strained right lat, which cost him three starts.
"I think some of my breaking balls were not good," Martinez said. "I couldn't find the strike zone with my breaking ball and cutter, too. That's why you saw a lot of four-seamers. They hit a lot of foul balls. I missed a lot."
Martinez was able to navigate around some of his self-inflicted struggles early on, escaping a bases-loaded jam in the third after two walks and a hit batter. The Reds tagged him for a run earlier in that inning when Billy Hamilton hit a leadoff triple and scored on a Scott Schebler groundout, but Martinez skated free with minimal damage by getting Jesse Winker to ground out.
The fourth inning is where things unraveled, though it looked promising to start. Martinez got two quick outs before allowing three walks and three base hits for four Cincinnati runs. A two-run single from Scooter Gennett and an RBI base hit from Eugenio Suarez gave the Reds a 5-2 lead and brought Martinez's day to an early end.
"I think it was a combination of not being sharp from the top and having some close pitches that didn't go the way we wanted them to go," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "But you give up that many free bases with seven walks, a hit batsmen -- that is a lot in a few innings. He had the slider going really good. It was the fastball. He couldn't find the right feel for it."
The tough inning also squandered a 2-0 lead the Cardinals built in the third inning on a Marcell Ozuna RBI single and a Yadier Molina sacrifice fly.
Ozuna's single wasn't your typical base hit. He came to bat with the bases loaded and one out and crushed a ball to left field. Winker leapt up and appeared to catch it at the wall and then double off Tommy Pham at second base to end the threat. The Cardinals challenged the play and replay showed the ball caromed off the wall before landing in Winker's glove.
The Cardinals got a run back in the sixth to chase Reds starter Anthony DeSclafani from the game, but were unable to solve the Cincinnati bullpen, despite out-hitting the Reds, 11 to five. The Cardinals stranded nine runners, and the 11 walks issued by the pitching staff tied a season high.
"We were right there," Matheny said. "We had a couple balls caught at the wall. How many hits did we have? 11? That is a lot of hits. We could have had some hits at bigger times, but today was about the free bases we gave up."
Amir Garrett relieved DeSclafani and let an inherited runner score on a sac fly to right field, but allowed nothing more. St. Louis threatened to shave the margin to one in the sixth with Harrison Bader on third with one out, but he got caught between third and home when Garrett snared a sharp comebacker hit by Luke Voit and caught Bader off the bag.
Michael Lorenzen turned in a scoreless seventh and Jared Hughes notched a six-out save for Cincinnati.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The fourth inning spiraled out of control quickly for Martinez, despite being a pitch away from ending the inning four different times. Martinez got two quick outs before issuing back-to-back walks to Hamilton and Schebler on full counts. A base hit from Tucker Barnhart brought a run home to tie the game and another full-count walk to Joey Votto followed. Martinez then left a 2-2 slider over the middle to Gennett, who plated two more, and Suarez pounced on a 2-2 fastball for another RBI single that brought Martinez's day to an early end.
Martinez said he was a little frustrated about missing by a small margin on some pitches, which allowed the inning to keep going.
"That's why I was a little frustrated," Martinez said. "I was really close. That happens when you don't throw a strike. I never lost my focus and was trying to compete to put the ball on the ground."
HE SAID IT
"Martinez was tough. Martinez was walking guys, but he would not give in. He kept going with some offspeed stuff, teasing people. Next thing you know, cutters and curveballs. He was willing to go deep in counts and kept getting out of trouble and finally Scooter got him." -- Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman
MITEL REPLAYS OF THE DAY
Ozuna gets a hit: St. Louis' early lead came with the help of replay review. The Cardinals had the bases loaded in the top of the third inning when Ozuna lifted the ball towards the left-field wall. It initially appeared that Winker made a nice leaping catch before throwing to second base for an inning-ending double play. But after the Cardinals challenged the call on the field, replay review showed Winker caught the ball on a carom off the wall, and the call was overturned, giving Ozuna an RBI single.
Safe at third base: Hamilton was on first base after a two-out walk in the fourth inning when Martinez threw a wild pitch on ball four to Schebler. As the ball got away, Molina was too casual in retrieving it behind the plate. Hamilton didn't stop running until he slid headfirst into third base. The call was challenged by the Cardinals, but stood upon review. Matheny seemed to think Molina thought the ball hit Schebler.
"But that doesn't do us much good," Matheny said. "You still have two guys on base with Hamilton on second base, who will score on any base hit, so you have to go for the out. We had enough to believe we might be able to get it overturned."
The Cardinals return home for a three-game set against San Diego beginning on Monday at 7:15 p.m. CT. Jack Flaherty is scheduled to get the nod for St. Louis at Busch Stadium. Flaherty went five innings his last time out against Miami, and was tagged for six runs (four earned) on eight hits with one walk and six strikeouts. Flaherty is 2-2 with a 3.20 ERA this season in seven starts. Jordan Lyles gets the ball for the Padres.
Brian Scott Rippee is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cincinnati.