Martinez's 'crazy play' key to Cardinals' win

Martinez's 'crazy play' key to Cardinals' win

MILWAUKEE -- If Carlos Martinez had been able to hear his dugout, he might not have attempted to make the defensive play that changed the course of St. Louis' 3-1, 10-inning victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday night that increased its National League Central lead to three games over the Pirates.

With runners at first and second and nobody out in the sixth inning of a 1-1 game, Brewers third baseman Elian Herrera dropped down a perfectly placed sacrifice bunt attempt.

Martinez, unable to hear his dugout screaming for him to eat the ball, made an athletic play to get to the ball before leaping to fire a strike to first base for the out.

"The game changed on the play he made on the bunt," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "That's bases loaded with nobody out with any other pitcher. That was just a heck of a play, an outstanding play. It was probably one of the better plays you'll see a pitcher make."

Instead of the red-hot Ryan Braun batting with no place to put him, the Brewers had runners at second and third with one out.

"It was a crazy play," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "We saw him do that last year in the playoffs. It was almost the same play. We're yelling to him to eat it and don't throw it. The next thing you know, we are all clapping."

With the base open, Matheny opted to intentionally walk Braun to set up a double play. Another fantastic play by the Cardinals defense made the decision pay off.

On a 3-1 slider from Martinez, Brewers first baseman Adam Lind hit a ground ball to Cards first baseman Mark Reynolds.

Almost a year to the date of when he forgot the number of outs on a potential double play that cost the Brewers a victory in St. Louis, Reynolds stepped on the bag and made a strong throw home to get the out at the plate.

Cards turn critical double play

While Reynolds' play on Lind's ground ball got the Cardinals out of the inning unscathed, the entire situation changes if Martinez doesn't get an out on Herrera's bunt attempt.

"It was something that happened really fast," Martinez said through a translator. "I saw [third baseman Matt Carpenter] was back, and I knew I had to try to make the play. I caught the ball and threw it as fast as I could."

Shane Peterson, who walked to start the inning, was just getting to third base when he saw Martinez leave his feet to throw the ball.

"I saw him pick it up and thought, 'Oh, no chance,'" Peterson said. "And next thing I know, he threw him out. It was ridiculous. Eddie [Sedar, Milwaukee's third-base coach] came up to me and said, 'I don't know how that was possible.'"

The athletic defensive play on the bunt attempt was just part of the all-around game Martinez had against the Brewers on Tuesday.

Martinez's dominant outing

Entering having allowed three or more runs in each of his last eight starts, Martinez flashed dominant pure stuff in limiting Milwaukee to one run over eight innings. He also doubled in the third inning and nearly legged out an infield single in the fifth.

"It was the best I've ever seen him throw," Matheny said. "That was no-hit stuff. From the first couple of pitches, [pitching coach Derek Lilliquist] and I were talking about how he was just so synched up. It was easy. The ball was jumping out of his hand."

Andrew Gruman is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.