Martinez plans to address 1st-inning troubles

Martinez plans to address 1st-inning troubles

MILWAUKEE -- Carlos Martinez's run of first-inning troubles continued on Tuesday, when he allowed all the offensive production Milwaukee would require in a 3-2 win before he could collect his third out.

The 30-pitch inning opened with a walk and included a pair of two-out RBI hits before a strikeout of Keon Broxton afforded Martinez the opportunity to reset. He did so, limiting the Brewers to an infield hit and four walks through the remainder of his five-inning night, but he still couldn't outrun the effects of the uneven beginning.

Concerned about this trend, the Cardinals have challenged him to make changes to his warmup routine.

"We have to keep tinkering with whatever it is, because when he gets through the first like he did today, he rolled," manager Mike Matheny said. "Early on it was just a timing issue. We're going to have to keep making some adjustments so that he's sharp when he comes out of the gate."

Martinez has surrendered first-inning runs in each of his last six starts, with opponents scoring multiple times in the opening frame in four of those games. His first-inning ERA this season swelled to 6.55 after Tuesday's appearance, and he's allowed more hits (23), homers (five) and walks (15) in that inning than in any other.

His ERA after the first inning? A much more modest 3.42.

"I think I need to try a little bit harder to focus in the first inning, especially if something goes wrong, if they score a run, not to let that allow me to lose focus," Martinez said through a translator. "In my warmups I throw all my pitches at game speed. I try to stay focused and try to treat my warmups as if I was pitching an inning during a game. Now I think it's more of an issue of staying in control mentally, and that's something I need to work on."

Matheny noted that the crux of the early issues seems to be in Martinez's timing, which would explain the elevated walk total.

"You're trying to get that intensity in the bullpen to match the intensity out on the mound," Matheny said. "He's an intense pitcher, and it's hard to replicate that sometimes as you're getting prepared for the game. You also don't want to spend all your bullets down there, so it's a fine line."

Not only have the Cardinals played from behind in Martinez's last six appearances, the extended first innings have cut into how deep Martinez has been able to go. After making 12 consecutive starts of at least six innings, he has pitched past the fifth in just three of his last six starts.

On Tuesday his pitch count had risen to 102 by the time he closed out the fifth.

"I'm not going to let any of these things that happened to me today let me lose focus or get me off track," Martinez said. "I'm starting to realize that maybe it is time to maybe think about making some changes and adjustments, because I know we're at a point where we can possibly make the playoffs, and it's time to buckle in and get going."

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.