DENVER -- It took the complete package for the Cardinals to avoid being swept out of Colorado on Wednesday, but behind a dominant pitching performance from Carlos Martinez, solid defense and his own two-hit contribution to the offense, the Cards prevailed, 4-2, in the series finale and secured a winning road trip.
"It's a big win," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "Two-out hits made the difference. When you talk about big hits, it's usually in those situations. When we get guys in scoring position, we've got to get something done. We were able to pull those out, and Carlos was terrific."
Martinez was masterful for 6 1/3 innings, shutting down the Rockies' lineup until his final pitch of the day. He scattered seven hits through the first six frames, pitching through traffic in every inning, then yielded his first walk to open the seventh. After following with a fielder's choice groundout, he gave up a two-run blast to center off the bat of Ben Paulsen to end his day on the mound.
"It's one of those things, once you don't see your name on the lineup, you've just got to be prepared for that pitch in that at-bat," said Paulsen, who entered as a defensive replacement in the seventh. "He kept throwing me changeups, and I finally stayed on one."
The Cardinals' offense notched its sixth consecutive game scoring four runs or fewer, but for the third time in that span, it was enough to win. Rockies starting pitcher Chad Bettis retired the first eight Cardinals he faced, then gave up three runs on six hits and two walks over his last 2 1/3 innings to suffer his first lost in six starts this season.
"If we're playing defense, we'd like to think four runs can win it," Matheny said. "We're going to get some runs too. We have to get our starters deeper into games. We've had [a stretch] this season when we were killing our bullpen. It goes hand in hand with our overall approach. We saw aggressiveness even on the basepaths. You see guys going first to third, [Matt Carpenter getting an extra base by] taking advantage of a bobbled ball, [Jason] Heyward taking advantage of a ball in the dirt [to get into scoring position]. Those sort of things are something that's different this year. It seems to be contagious in every aspect of the game."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED A little help: Martinez helped his own cause, getting the Cardinals' first hit of the game and sparking a run-scoring, two-out rally after Bettis retired the first eight straight. Martinez singled to center and advanced to third on Kolten Wong's single to right. He scored the game's first run on Carpenter's base knock to left, and Wong came home on a wild pitch to cap the two-run third.
"He started that rally for us," Matheny said. "He had two outs, he puts together a good at-bat and the next thing you know, we have a couple runs on the board. The value of those two-out at-bats, just grinding. We tried to talk about how we define our offense, and that's what it's going to have to be. We have to grind at-bats. The extra bases are in there for every one of these guys, but the grinding at-bats is going to be the secret to how we're going to continue to put runs on the board."
Beating the shift: After Wong robbed him of a RBI hit in the first, Carlos Gonzalez got his revenge in his next at-bat. With the shift in full effect, Gonzalez snuck one between a diving Wong and first baseman Mark Reynolds for a fourth-inning double. The hit extended Gonzalez's on-base streak to 21 -- a new career-high. He has raised his batting average from .197 to .251 and his on-base percentage from .258 to .324 during the 21-game streak, and he has an eight-game hitting streak going during which he's hitting .438 (14-for-32).
Back in the swing: After starting the series 0-for-8 and striking out in each of four at-bats Tuesday, Carpenter was back in his groove Wednesday, getting two hits in his last four at-bats and contributing to two run-scoring rallies for St. Louis. His one-out single in the fifth turned into the game-winning run when Reynolds plated him with a double to the wall in deep center.
"You got to have a short memory in the game of baseball," Carpenter said. "You have to put the last game aside and go out the next day and try to win a game for your team. I had opportunities to help us win a game today. If I was thinking about yesterday and feeling sorry for myself, odds are I probably wouldn't be ready to go."
Heat check: Bettis had been the Rockies' most efficient pitcher of late, but the Cardinals worked up his pitch count and got to him enough, ending Bettis' run of four straight starts covering six innings or more. Entering Wednesday, Bettis had given up just three runs over his previous 22 1/3 innings, but St. Louis matched that run total in fewer than five frames. All three of the runs came with two outs.
"I felt out of whack the whole day," Bettis said. "It was just one of those days where it just didn't seem like anything was right. Those days come and go, but you have to battle."
"Our starting pitching is going to define us. We've got the kind of lineup that's going to be able to put some runs across, but overall, we know that our sustained success begins with our starting pitching." -- Matheny, on a pitching staff that posted a 3.15 ERA on the seven-game road trip
"He was sore and started getting more sore as the game went on, so we got him out of there. But it looks like he's going to be fine." -- Rockies manager Walt Weiss, on outfielder Brandon Barnes, who came up gingerly after a fifth-inning slide and was later replaced by Paulsen in the seventh
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Martinez improved to 5-1 in day games. In 69 1/3 career innings, Martinez owns a 2.60 ERA in afternoon tilts.
WHAT'S NEXT Cardinals:Jaime Garcia (1-3, 2.67 ERA) gets the call Friday at 7:15 p.m. CT to open a weekend series with the I-70 rival Royals. Garcia pitched well Saturday in L.A., allowing two runs on six hits over seven innings, but lost 2-0 to Clayton Kershaw. The Cardinals have not given him much run support, as they've been blanked in three of his four starts on the season. Garcia has not issued a walk in his last 22 innings on the hill.
Rockies:Chris Rusin (2-0, 1.45) will make his second start against the Marlins in less than a week when Colorado begins a four-game series with Miami on Thursday. The Rockies haven't been to Marlins Park since the opening series of last year, when Miami took 3-of-4 from Colorado. Thursday's first pitch will come at 5:10 p.m. MT.