Pham, Piscotty, Martinez charge up Cards

Pham, Piscotty, Martinez charge up Cards

CHICAGO -- With the sting of a comeback attempt fallen short, and the bruises to back up some bitterness generated by a series of hit batsmen, the Cardinals came out on Sunday playing as if they had something to prove.

That translated into a quick start -- the Cardinals scored three first-inning runs off Chicago's Jon Lester -- and an animated performance from the always high-energy Carlos Martinez. Combined with a game-changing eighth-inning stand, it sent the Cardinals back home with a 4-3 victory over the Cubs.

Martinez's strong performance

"I thought our guys came out of the box today ready to continue what they started late in the game last night," manager Mike Matheny said. "I sensed an edge. There's no doubt. They left here with an edge, and they showed up this morning with an edge. They responded perfectly, just how I hoped it would."

What had happened earlier in the series seemed to shake some life into this club, which had lost 10 of its first 17 games this month to slow down its pursuit of a third straight division title. Tommy Pham and Stephen Piscotty hit first-inning home runs, the latter coming after a hard slide by Jason Heyward prevented the Cubs from turning an inning-ending double play.

Piscotty's two-run homer

An inning later, Yadier Molina's hard slide into second broke up another potential double play.

"When you're challenged throughout the season, you want to make sure you answer back as a group," said Heyward, whose eighth-inning assist preserved a tie game. "And I thought we did a great job of that."

Molina made a point of apologizing to shortstop Addison Russell for the show of aggressiveness. It wouldn't be the team's only apology of the afternoon.

Martinez issued one of his own after he felt umpire Alfonso Marquez squeezed him out of a called strike three for the second time. In the first inning, that led to Martinez hastily catching the ball as it was thrown back. In the third, he dropped to his knees in disbelief.

Aware that Marquez was growing irritated with the emotional display, Martinez approached him at the end of the third to apologize. He put his arm around him as he did.

"He's his own man," Matheny said, noting he's never seen a pitcher embrace an ump like that before. "He had some bounce in his step. He gets the excitement around this, and being here, and he feeds off that stuff."

In his first career start at Wrigley Field, Martinez rode that energy to a 6 2/3-inning quality start.

"I always want to give my team the best chance to win a game," said Martinez, speaking through a translator. "Today I just went to the mound to compete, to try to make good pitches, to give the team a better chance to win. That's all I'm worried about all the time."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.