Martinez dazzles with 9 shutout innings

Martinez dazzles with 9 shutout innings

ST. LOUIS -- The best start of Carlos Martinez's career finished as a footnote in the outcome -- a 3-1 loss to the Giants that extended the Cardinals' losing streak to four. As far as individual significance, however, the night lands among Martinez's career highlights.

Martinez has long eyed the chance to complete a game he started. He'll have to continue waiting for that opportunity, but he did push further than ever before with Saturday's nine-inning start against the Giants. It would have ticked off two new firsts -- a shutout and a complete game -- if only the Cardinals' offense could have mustered some support.

Instead, an offensive drought that spanned 12 innings left Martinez to settle for a no-decision.

"Unfortunately, it didn't go our way, but I feel really happy with my performance," Martinez said, speaking through a translator. "You just have to put games like this behind you. I really felt like I pitched to win tonight. It didn't happen that way, but I'm happy with myself."

Entering the night, Martinez had seven career starts of eight innings, and only once had he even been given the chance to pitch into the ninth. But never had he been so efficient, so dominant against an opposing offense, and everywhere he looked as the game deepened Saturday, Martinez was reassured that this night was going to last longer than any before.

Manager Mike Matheny sent Martinez, not a pinch-hitter, to the plate after Aledmys Diaz led off the eighth with a single. And when Martinez put the potential winning run on base with two out in the ninth, the bullpen never stirred.

Martinez had earned the long leash by breezing through eight innings on 73 pitches. He had allowed two hits, and not a runner had reached second base against him. Six of his first eight innings were over in 10 or fewer pitches. The only trouble he faced was opposing starter Jeff Samardzija, who was doing the same.

"Rather rhythmic the way he was pitching," Samardzija said. "The kid has amazing stuff."

Martinez showcased it a little differently Saturday. He established his sinker early, which made the changeup and slider especially effective. Several times he fooled hitters into starting their swings too early, which generated more popups and fly balls than Martinez is used to seeing.

There was hardly any solid contact made, evidenced by the Giants' average exit velocity of 78.6 mph off Martinez as tracked by Statcast™.

"You could tell he wasn't necessarily trying to overpower guys, but he had the strikeout stuff when he wanted it," Matheny said. "That's probably his best start of his career. And part of that was just trusting his defense and making pitches in the bottom. He used everything. The changeup was good. The breaking ball was good. He had it all tonight. It's just a shame we couldn't do anything with it."

Because the Cardinals couldn't score, Martinez became the first Cardinals pitcher since Matt Morris (2004) to throw nine scoreless innings in a start and not earn a win. Previous to Saturday, the Cardinals had been 7-0 when getting eight or more innings in one of his starts.

"I mean, he's electric," said teammate Greg Garcia. "Every one of his pitches is put-away stuff and he was getting ahead, working quick. Great performance. Unfortunately, we couldn't get the win tonight."

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. 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.