Then, Martin allowed himself a less-than-pronounced fist pump. The rookie was glad to have escaped a two-on, two-out jam on his last pitch of the nightcap. But the 14th-round pick by the White Sox in the 2018 MLB Draft couldn’t have been blamed for raising his hands in the air and letting out a primal scream after finishing off a stellar Major League debut.
“He was impressive,” said manager Tony La Russa, whose team cruised to a 3-0 victory in Game 1. “Tough for him to be the losing pitcher, it really bothers all of us. He didn’t deserve to be a loser. He did so many good things. He has a right to feel good and look at his big league future sooner rather than later.”
Martin, 25, allowed one run on five hits and one walk to go with seven strikeouts over those five innings and 91 pitches. He topped out at 96.8 mph with his four-seam fastball, per Statcast, recording an impressive 16 swings and misses with nine coming off the slider.
The White Sox knew primarily about Martin from video and word of mouth within the organization, with the young hurler not being part of big league Spring Training. He went 4-1 with a 2.50 ERA over five starts for Double-A Birmingham and two most recently for Triple-A Charlotte before getting the call to the Majors on Monday morning.
At the time of the call, Martin knew nothing more than he was an insurance arm for the doubleheader.
“An hour later, it's like, 'Hey, you've got Game 2.' So it all kind of hit pretty quick,” Martin said. “But I was ready to go. I was slated for a Tuesday start in Charlotte against Norfolk. So, I just kept the same routine and rolled right into it."
“It's exciting because this is somebody that, going into big league camp, wasn't there and now he's out there pitching in a big league game a month later,” pitching coach Ethan Katz said. “It's exciting and it's a tribute to what he was doing down in the Minors."
The setback dropped the White Sox (18-18) back to .500, after right-hander Dylan Cease improved to 4-1 and raised his Major League-best strikeout total to 67 over 43 2/3 innings by fanning nine over 5 2/3 innings in the afternoon opener.
Those innings weren’t easy for Cease, as he gave up seven hits and walked two. But the Royals finished the opener 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position and 1-for-23 over the two games.
“Fortunately, I executed pitches with guys in scoring position pretty well today and got some big strikeouts,” Cease said. “The biggest thing is I know what I have to do to execute and sometimes I throw a ball, sometimes they get hits, but at the end of the day, I know what I have to control.
“Just focus, and I have enough experience now where I know when I'm doing too much and not enough. Really it's kind of just staying the course and trusting it."
Cease talked to Martin briefly before his debut, and Martin made a point of talking to established starters such as Cease and other veterans to glean as much information as possible from this special day. Martin actually came to the ballpark early at the encouragement of his wife, as he was walking a hole in the hotel carpet, and took a walk around Kauffman at around 9 a.m. CT.
According to Martin, he was able to take a breath, soak in the moment and not go all “fan-boyish” later that evening when he actually took the mound. The plan worked, as Martin looked as if he belonged.
“Once you get on the mound, it's the fun part. The hard part is waiting all day to go,” said Martin, who got the lineup card and the baseball from his first strikeout. “The fun part is getting out there and competing, seeing if your stuff plays at the highest level. Once you get on the mound, it was go time.
“It was fun having Yasmani [Grandal] back there, a very veteran catcher who calms me down and helps me take it one step at a time, and slows the game down for me a lot. He helped a ton back behind the plate. It's definitely great. It's only one outing, just going to take it one outing at a time.”