St. Louis Cardinals

Martinez vs. Scherzer in potential classic matchup Sunday night

Carlos Martinez will take on Max Scherzer on Sunday.
Carlos Martinez will take on Max Scherzer on Sunday. AP

ESPN struck the gold mine with its decision to televise the Washington Nationals-St. Louis Cardinals game Sunday night.

The game will match two of the best pitchers in the National League in the Nationals’ Max Scherzer (9-5, 2.06 ERA), a St. Louis native and former Missouri star, and the Cardinals’ Carlos Martinez (6-6, 2.88 ERA).

These are the types of games that used to worry the Cardinals about Martinez, a fierce and emotional competitor who was prone to being overwhelmed by the moment. That no longer is the case, insists manager Mike Matheny.

“He’s done a better job (with that),” Matheny said Saturday. “We’ve all watched when that scene or intensity or excitement gets elevated. Early on, a couple of years ago, it would have been really hard for him to contain himself. He would try to do more. He’s been able to temper it well (lately).”

Still, the Cardinals will keep a close eye on Martinez to keep him on track and remind him he’s trying to beat the Nationals, not just Scherzer.

“It’s a Sunday night game,” Matheny said. “I’ve been hearing it for a week now; they were talking about this matchup. With that being said, you can fall victim to it. Hopefully, he just goes out and pitches like he’s been pitching and trust the fact that’s going to be good enough against anybody.”

Martinez, 25, has made significant strides in a five-year career in which he is 40-27 with a 3.25 ERA in 156 games and 84 starts.

His mental approach has advanced about as much as anything, and it’s a potential problem that all professional players must get through.

“The biggest adjustments guys have to be able to make is the consistency in their mentality,” Matheny said. “Carlos had high peaks and low valleys. He’s been able to kind of find that consistent approach, that consistent preparation, the kind of heartbeat he needed to have out there, what would work for him and what wouldn’t. It takes time. That’s something he’s getting much better at.

“It’s (about) constantly fighting the outside excitement, constantly fighting anything that might put you in a different place personally. It’s part of the maturity process. Not every guy gets there. Some guys never find it. I think he’s just found a nice place.”

David Wilhelm: @DavidMWilhelm