ST. LOUIS -- His regular-season numbers complete after capping the best season of his young career with one of his most in-control starts, Carlos Martinez now turns his attention to what's next -- even if he's not yet sure what that might be.
Ready to start for the Cardinals in a win-or-go-home National League Wild Card Game on Wednesday, Martinez can only anxiously watch as the Cards try to get there. What Martinez did on Friday in pitching the Cardinals to a 7-0 win over the Pirates will help. But now he's left to hope.
That's because the Giants held serve, too, beating the Dodgers to maintain their one-game advantage over the Cardinals for the second spot in the NL Wild Card standings. The Mets, with a win, remain one game ahead of them. If Martinez is to take the mound again in 2016, the Cardinals will need at least one of those teams to lose.
"I'm confident that it won't be [my last start], because I'm confident in my team," Martinez said, speaking through an interpreter. "We're doing our best, and I think we can really make it to the postseason and hopefully play deep into October."
Martinez, who had shoulder fatigue last September due to workload, finished this season as strong as he started. He twirled seven splendid innings on Friday, striking out nine and leaving the Pirates hitless in nine chances with a runner in scoring position. His breaking ball improved as the night deepened, and Martinez picked his spots to up the velocity when situations called for a strikeout.
He executed it all with ease.
"That was as good as you could ask of him," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "He had everything again. He had the intensity, he was able to harness it, had good movement, had good breaking stuff. He's a guy right now, when he gets on that roll, you want him on the mound."
With his team-leading 20th quality start, Martinez finished the season with 195 1/3 innings pitched, more than any other pitcher on the Cardinals' staff. He logged 14 starts of at least seven innings and allowed two or fewer runs in eight of his final nine outings.
"He has games where it appears easy to him, like those innings tonight when he had second and third, one out, and there was no doubt in anyone's mind that he was getting out of that with no runs," teammate Adam Wainwright said. "His talent is tremendous. It might be the best in baseball, period."
Wainwright noted, too, that Martinez's ability to make in-game adjustments this season showcased the maturation the 25-year-old has undergone in his second full season as a member of the Cardinals' rotation.
While it all sets up for Martinez to shoulder even greater expectations next season, the Cardinals hope not to have to look that far ahead so soon. They'll play this weekend so that Martinez can pitch again.
"Whatever team it may be, I'm going to be well prepared," Martinez said of a potential Wild Card start. "I'm going to treat it like a first and a last game."
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.