Carlos Martinez continued to pitch well Monday.
But for the fourth consecutive game, the St. Louis Cardinals couldn’t provide enough support for their developing right-hander as they fell 4-2 to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Martinez (7-6) allowed three runs on nine hits in seven innings, with one walk and seven strikeouts. He has a 1.33 ERA in his last four starts, allowing four earned runs in 27 innings. But he’s 0-1 with three no-decisions and the Cardinals have lost each game, scoring 10 runs.
It’s things that happen. I trust in my team and know my team can do a lot better. It’s a long season and I know we’re going to get back in a rhythm.
Cardinals pitcher Carlos Martinez on pitching well but receiving little run support
“It’s things that happen,” Martinez said through a translator. “I trust in my team and know my team can do a lot better. It’s a long season and I know we’re going to get back in a rhythm.”
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny bemoaned his team’s inability to provide Martinez with adequate support, but said Martinez’s performance offered further proof of his maturation.
“I think the rest of the league sees what we see. This guy is a top-tier pitcher,” Matheny said. “He’s taken that step in his career to where he’s figuring out how to pitch on a consistent basis to find his stuff and get quick outs. Then he’s got all the horsepower you could ever ask for. He’s putting it all together and it will be fun to watch him do it for the rest of this season.”
Martinez, who had two singles to extend his hitting streak to four and jump his average to .290, allowed consecutive singles to David Freese, Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer to start the fifth, but Erik Kratz fanned and pitcher Jonathon Niese rolled into a 6-4-3 double play.
He’s putting it all together and it will be fun to watch him do it for the rest of this season.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny on the development of Carlos Martinez
Martinez wasn’t so fortunate, however, in the sixth. With the Cardinals leading 1-0, John Jaso doubled to right-center to open the inning. Gregory Polanco, battling a tight left hamstring, followed with a two-run homer to right to put Pittsburgh ahead to stay.
“It was only a matter of him making good contact on that pitch,” Martinez said of a changeup that Polanco launched 392 feet. “It didn’t make me lose any focus and I just tried to stay concentrated all the way to the seventh inning.”
Jaso’s RBI single in the seventh, also against Martinez, made it 3-1. Polanco’s second home run, a solo shot inside the left-field foul pole in the eighth against Seth Maness, made it 4-1.
Matt Carpenter, who drove in the Cardinals’ first run with a single in the fifth against Jonathon Niese (7-6), had an RBI double in the ninth against Neftali Perez. But Matt Holliday, representing the winning run, flied out to right to end the game.
Holliday is in an 0-for-10 slump that has dropped his average to .244.
Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday (0-for-10) and first baseman Matt Adams (0-for-15) are slumping at the plate. Holliday’s average has slipped to .244, while Adams is at .279.
Polanco’s availability wasn’t determined until soon before the game. Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle penciled him into the lineup after Polanco did some pregame running.
Polanco grounded into a double play in the first and looked bad going to first, but he made all the necessary plays in right in addition to recording the first multihomer game of his career.
The Cardinals’ last three home defeats have come against starters with ERAs above 5.00: Kansas City’s Edinson Volquez (5.15) and Chris Young (6.54) and the Pirates’ Niese (5.07). St. Louis has scored five runs in those games.
“I don’t know what to make of that,” said Matheny. “You just never know. Any guy in this league has the potential to put something together. We don’t put too much stock in what they’ve been doing. We’ve seen it too many times, whether it’s at home or on the road. You see a guy that might be getting beat up and he makes good pitches against us.
“We treat them all with the same amount of respect because you know that any one of them could have that kind of day, and we’ve see quite a few of those days. ... The guys had a good plan (against Niese). We had an idea what we wanted to do. We just couldn’t get that big hit. Things that have been working for us, we couldn’t find today.”
Pirates 4, Cardinals 2
Gregory Polanco smacked two home runs and drove in three Monday to lead Pittsburgh to a victory in the opener of a four-game series before 41,850 at Busch Stadium
By the numbers
The start of the game was delayed by rain for 1 hour, 26 minutes. In the last three days, rain delays have lasted 5:13. ... The Cardinals had won five straight July 4 games until Monday. ... Matt Carpenter drove in both St. Louis runs with a single and a double and has lifted his average to .305. ... Carlos Martinez is 0-1 with three no-decisions in his last four starts despite allowing just four runs in 27 innings. ... The Cardinals are 18-24 at Busch Stadium.
Mike Leake (5-6, 4.13 ERA) vs. Steven Brault (0-0, 0.00 ERA), 7:15 p.m. Tuesday