As of Saturday, consider that theory to be a shattered myth.
With Eric Fryer catching for the second straight game after Molina had to sit out, Martinez authored the first shutout of his major league career, checking the Philadelphia Phillies on four hits in a 7-0 triumph at Busch Stadium.
Martinez (5-5) fanned 11 and walked just one in his 107-pitch gem. His last strikeout was on a 100 mph fastball to Howie Kendrick on his 101st pitch of the game. With the crowd of 43,911 standing and cheering for the 27th out, Martinez induced a game-ending groundout from Maikel Franco.
After the out, Martinez walked off the mound, patted his chest three times and hugged Fryer as fireworks went off.
“It’s been one of my goals,” Martinez said through an interpreter. “I just feel happy. I’m living out my dream. The next goal is a perfect game.”
With a triple-digit fastball, two wipeout secondary pitches (slider, changeup) and an improving slow curve, Martinez possesses the arsenal to confound any lineup. He was certainly too much for a Philadelphia nine that has scored just seven runs in its last five games, losing four straight.
But doing what he did with Fryer calling pitches displayed the increased maturity in Martinez’s approach. It was the first time Fryer had caught Martinez this year, but there were few, if any shake-offs, and definitely a good pace from the outset.
“He’s always got the stuff,” Fryer said. “It’s just a matter of if he can control it the whole game. The focus was there from the outset. You could see guys getting frustrated. They’d get fastball counts and he’d slip a slider in there.”
Martinez picked up a strikeout in every inning but the seventh. He whiffed Aaron Altherr three times, all looking. Only twice in 32 hitters did he go to three-ball counts, so precise were his pitches.
The closest the Phillies (21-39) got to chasing him was with an inaccurate fastball from reliever Jeanmar Gomez in the bottom of the seventh. Martinez squared around to bunt and then ducked a pitch headed for his noggin.
Martinez was awarded first base when plate umpire Chris Conroy said the pitch conked him on the hand, although replays showed the ball appeared to hit nothing but the bat.
“I thought he broke his wrist or something and he was fine,” Philadelphia manager Pete Mackanin said. “That surprised me.”
Less surprising was that Phillies starter Nick Pivetta (1-3) struggled with command, giving up four walks in his five innings to give him 16 walks in 29 1/3 innings.
Saturday’s third free pass, a leadoff four-pitch job to Dexter Fowler in the fourth, kick-started the inning which decided the game.
Stephen Piscotty doubled Fowler to third. Jedd Gyorko rifled a double off the wall in right-center that plated both runners. Pivetta later balked Gyorko home and Fryer capped the outburst with an RBI single.
Pivetta allowed four hits and four runs, picking up a pair of strikeouts. The rookie right-hander has failed to surpass five innings in any of his first six big league starts, although he did pick off runners to end the first two innings.
Matt Carpenter added a two-run double in the seventh for St. Louis (28-32). Gyorko finished the scoring with a sacrifice fly to right for his third RBI of the day.
Martinez badly wanted to finish what he started. He looked at manager Mike Matheny after the eighth and asked him for the ninth. Mindful of an off-day that will give Martinez five days before his next start, Matheny gave him the chance.
Martinez rode it all the way to a personal goal.
“It’s important for these young guys,” Matheny said of the shutout. “It’s a big goal for all of them.”
NOTES: St. Louis C Yadier Molina (lower back stiffness) was scratched for a second straight game, with Eric Fryer taking his place. It’s just the ninth time in 60 games that Molina hasn’t started this year. … Philadelphia RHP Casey Fien made his first appearance for the team Friday night with two scoreless inning. It also marked a milestone of sorts for Fien, as it was his 300th major league game. … The Cardinals’ 1-2 hitters, 1B Matt Carpenter and CF Dexter Fowler, each had two hits on Friday night. It was just the second time this season they did it in the same game; the first was on April 27 in the nightcap of a doubleheader with Toronto.