Pitcher Carlos Martinez on Sunday was worn down by four days of battling the flu. He had dropped, in his own estimation, between 5 and 10 pounds.
But Martinez assured St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny that he was healthy enough to pitch. It worked out until the seventh inning when the Washington Nationals tattooed Martinez for three runs on four hits en route to a 6-1 victory at Busch Stadium that completed a three-game sweep.
I’m not feeling good. With coughing and stuff like that, I still feel like I have the flu.
St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Carlos Martinez after his loss to Washington on Sunday
Two of the Nationals’ hits in the seventh were home runs on consecutive pitches: a two-run blast by Clint Robinson and a solo shot by Danny Espinosa that put Washington ahead 4-0.
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“I’m not feeling good,” Martinez said through interpreter Brayan Pena after absorbing his first loss of the season in five decisions. “With coughing and stuff like that, I still feel like I have the flu. But I woke up today and went to the skipper’s office and I told him I was ready to go.
“I just want to help my team to win. I felt like I had a chance today.”
The Nationals (17-7) outscored the Cardinals, who have lost a season-high four in a row, 17-6 in the series and outhomered them 6-2.
The Cardinals (12-13) were swept in a three-game series at home for the first time since June 21-23, 2013, against the Texas Rangers. It was the first time St. Louis was swept in a three-game series at home by a National League club since May 24-26, 2012, against Philadelphia.
Martinez allowed four runs (earned) on seven hits in 6 2/3 innings. He walked none and struck out eight in his matchup against St. Louisan Max Scherzer, who was sensational on the mound and at the plate.
The Cardinals were outscored 17-6 and outhomered 6-2 by Washington as they suffered their first three-game sweep at home since the Texas Rangers accomplished the feat in June 2013. It was the first time the Cardinals have been swept by a National League team in a three-game series at home since May 2012 against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Scherzer (3-1) threw seven innings, yielding four singles, walking none and striking out nine. He was also 2-for-2 with a sacrifice.
The Cardinals’ only run came on Brandon Moss’ two-out homer in the ninth against reliever Blake Treinen. It was Moss’ team-high sixth home run of the season.
Martinez is the most recent Cardinal to be stricken by the flu. Reliever Kevin Siegrist and second baseman Kolten Wong suffered from its symptoms on the recent road trip.
Martinez’s legal battle
Martinez, 24, might have had other things on his mind, too.
He is the defendant in a civil lawsuit being brought against him by a former girlfriend, Diana Molina, who alleges Martinez of battery and infecting her with a sexually transmitted disease.
Molina, who is not related to Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, is seeking $1.5 million in damages.
“I’m pretty sure that I’m healthy,” Martinez said, referring to the allegations in Molina’s lawsuit. “I know who I am. But at the same time, that’s not part of my job. That’s my lawyer and my agent. They’re going to take care of that.”
Is the legal matter a distraction?
“I just focus on doing my job,” Martinez said. “That’s my main goal. Everything outside (of that) is totally out of my hands. The only thing I can control is come here and help my team to win. That’s my main focus. I really don’t have anything else to say about it.”
Had the game been played Saturday, Martinez said he would not have been able to pitch. Martinez was in Florida on Friday dealing with the lawsuit.
“I didn’t feel good (Saturday). I went back home (Friday) and I was so tired and very weak,” Martinez said. “I told Mike I probably was not going to do it. But then I woke up early in the morning (Sunday) and the first thing I did was call Mike and tell him that I was ready because I felt a little bit better. ... I was ready for this start mentally.”
Martinez said the home runs hit by Robinson (419 feet) and Espinosa (420 feet) came on “good pitches.” Both were driven into the bleachers in right-center.
“They went out there and made pretty good swings on those pitches,” said Martinez, who threw 87 pitches. “(But) I feel good because those were the pitches I wanted to throw.”
Trouble against the best
The loss Sunday dropped St. Louis to 1-8 against above-.500 teams.The Cardinals have been outscored 42-16 against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs and Nationals, the three winning clubs they have faced.
Matheny, however, said it’s important to play well against all teams.
“I don’t know if that would be a true statement, that it’s more disappointing or less (losing to good teams),” Matheny said. “We’ve been here before, where we’re playing really good against the teams that are at the top of the leaderboard and not doing well against teams at the bottom.
“It just doesn’t matter. We have to play good against everybody. I don’t think you put more weight on one thing or the other. And we are still just beginning the second month of the season. We’ve got a long way to go. We’ve seen too many positives, even against some of the better teams. You’ve just got to keep playing the game.”
Nationals 6, Cardinals 1
Clint Robinson, Danny Espinosa and Chris Heisey homered Sunday as Washington ripped the Cardinals to complete a three-game sweep. Carlos Martinez (4-1) allowed four runs in 6 2/3 innings, including the homers to Robinson and Espinosa, as he suffered his first loss of the season.
By the numbers
The Cardinals, whose losing streak reached four, had just six hits, five of them singles. ... Brandon Moss hit his sixth home run in the ninth inning. ... St. Louis batters struck out 12 times against Max Scherzer and two relievers. ... Randal Grichuk is in an 0-for-20 slump.
A four-game series against the Philadelpia Phillies. Adam Wainwright (1-3, 7.16 ERA) will pitch the opener against Jeremy Hellickson (2-1, 3.81 ERA) at 7:15 p.m. Monday.