ST. LOUIS -- These are tough times for Phillies fans and they didn't get any better Saturday afternoon with St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Carlos Martinez dominating baseball's worst team in a fast-moving, 7-0 shutout at Busch Stadium.
The 25-year-old Martinez struck out 11 and his fastball lit up the radar gun at 100 mph as late as the ninth inning.
"He was filthy," said Aaron Altherr, three times a Martinez strikeout victim.
The loss was the Phillies' fourth in a row - they've scored a paltry four runs in those games - and dropped them to 9-25 on the road and 21-39 overall.
If it makes Phillies fans feel any better as they wait for a brighter day for this rebuilding franchise, remember this about Martinez: Rival scouts often use him as a comparable for young Sixto Sanchez, the 18-year-old right-hander who is the Phillies' top pitching prospect. They both have similar builds on a 6-foot frame and have easy deliveries that generate big power.
It's just a thought to brighten your day.
Ah, don't mention it.
Now back to the present.
Martinez held the Phillies to four hits and a walk. One of the hits was an infield hit. The Phils did not get a runner beyond second base.
"We've scored seven runs in the last five games, but Martinez was tough today," manager Pete Mackanin said. "He really pitched well. We didn't have much chance against him. He threw extremely well.
"He threw all of his pitches for strikes. He changed speeds. He had that velocity late in the game. I looked up and I saw 100 (in the ninth inning). I don't know if it was or not. But he certainly pitched well. He has a good fastball."
Phillies starter Nick Pivetta doesn't have Martinez' overall stuff, but it's pretty good, certainly major-league quality.
Pivetta's challenge is to throw more strikes and more quality strikes. In that vein, Saturday offered another learning experience for the 24-year-old right-hander.
Pivetta got through the first three innings smoothly before coming apart in the fourth inning. He walked two in the inning and gave up a pair of doubles and a single. He also balked in a run, allowing four in all in the frame. He settled down in the fifth, but the damage was done.
"Not getting ahead of guys," said Pivetta, explaining his struggles. "It's just a lack of concentration maybe from time to time but it's just unacceptable.
"I will keep going out there and learn from mistakes and next time go at it a better way."
Control and command have been Pivetta's big issue. He was 5-0 with a 1.41 ERA in five starts at Triple A this season. In 32 innings at Triple A, he walked just two.
He is 1-3 with a 5.52 ERA in his six starts with the big club. In 29 1/3 innings in the big leagues, he has walked 16.
That'll hurt you.
"Once again, at this level, it's a whole different ballgame," Mackanin said. "A guy gets here for the first time and he's in awe. It's not like he scatters the ball all over the place. He just misses. But what happens is, instead of letting their stuff play, they pitch a little bit more away from contact. They're trying to make perfect pitches at this level instead of letting their stuff do the job. That's what leads to a few more walks here.
"He has the stuff to be a real good pitcher. It's all about consistency and being able to perform over nine innings.
"He's taking his lumps. This is his first exposure to the big leagues. It's not easy. He's learning quickly that you can't make a lot of mistakes at this level. But we feel like he made advances in picking off two runners today, holding the runners, changing his holds. So every little bit is a positive we can get out of it."
The game totally got away from the Phillies when Jeanmar Gomez was tagged for three runs in the seventh.
Less than a week ago, the Phillies were building a four-game winning streak and appeared to be out of the woods after a brutal 6-22 month of May.
Now, the losing has started again. Aaron Nola will look to stop it Sunday, but he might have to pitch a shutout given the way this team's offense has dried up.
"The entire season has been a season of streaks, more losing than winning," Mackanin said. "But we have put six wins together (earlier in the season) and four together (recently). That's the whole key to success here. You have to be consistent all the time. When you have consistency from your pitchers and your hitters give you quality at-bats, that's where you want to be."