Phillies-Cardinals 5 Things: Young Ace Carlos Martinez Stands in Way | NBC 10 Philadelphia

Phillies-Cardinals 5 Things: Young Ace Carlos Martinez Stands in Way

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    Phillies-Cardinals 5 Things: Young Ace Carlos Martinez Stands in Way
    CSNPhilly.com
    Phillies-Cardinals 5 things: Young ace Carlos Martinez stands in way

    Phillies (21-38) at Cardinals (27-32)
    2:15 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

    In a game that was shorter than Friday night's NBA Finals game, the Phillies came up just short in their first game in St. Louis, losing 3-2. Andrew Knapp and Freddy Galvis stranded the tying run on third to end the game (see game story).

    The Phillies send Nick Pivetta to the mound Saturday for his second start since getting called back up, while the Cardinals give the ball to ace RHP Carlos Martinez.

    Here are five things to know for the afternoon duel:

    1. Follow up for Pivetta
    For the first time in his short MLB career, Pivetta picked up a win on Monday, beating the Atlanta Braves.

    He wasn't anything special: He allowed six hits and walked three, surrendering three runs in five innings. However, he didn't give up any home runs - one of his big bugaboos in his first MLB stint - and pitched to the score. He had a 9-0 lead before he gave up any of the runs.

    You wouldn't think it, but the Braves are a much better offense than the Cardinals, at least recently. In the last 30 days going into Friday, the Braves had a .278/.347/.429 overall batting line while the Cardinals had the second-worst OPS in the majors at .666 (.234/.301/.365). The worst mark, of course, belonged to the Phillies, at .654.

    For Pivetta, it's a prime opportunity to finally get deep into a game. He hasn't even thrown a pitch in the sixth inning during his first five big-league starts. Part of that has been walks: He's issued 11 over his last three appearances. He's averaged over a strikeout per inning, but hits, walks and homers have also been in abundance. His 1.81 WHIP and .320 batting average against say it all. 

    Just 24 years old, he has an opening to develop in the majors with Vince Velasquez hurt. It may mean simply taking some lumps for now, but he's got a strong chance to put together his first quality start on Saturday.

    2. Facing a phenom 
    Martinez is no one to mess with.

    The fifth-year starter who is all of 25 years old, has taken another step towards becoming an ace this season. His 4-5 record isn't great, but he has a 3.29 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 79 1/3 innings. His hits per nine innings have gone down every year he's been in the majors, all the way to just 6.6 this year. His walks are a bit of an issue (3.3 per nine) but he strikes out 10 per nine with his electric stuff.

    This is the type of performance the Cardinals hoped for when they inked him to a five-year, $51 million extension with two team options this offseason. He has seven strikeouts or more in nine of his 12 starts and has gone at least six innings in each of his past eight appearances. 

    He gave up four runs in 6 1/3 to the Reds on Monday, losing as his offense came up with just two runs. A start earlier, he held the red-hot Dodgers to just one run in eight innings while scattering four hits. This is a legit No. 1 starter we're talking about.

    How does he do it? He attacks with his fastball that sits around 96 mph and touches 100. His sinker sits around 95 and he wipes hitters out with his hard slider, also mixing in a changeup vs. lefties. 

    Martinez is 2-0 with a 3.21 ERA in five games (two starts) vs. the Phillies in his career. He's struck out just nine in 14 innings but has limited the Phils to just nine hits and five walks. Only five Phillies have faced Martinez and none have more than three at-bats. Odubel Herrera is 2 for 3, Freddy Galvis is 1 for 3 and Daniel Nava is 1 for 2 with a double.

    3. Fowler in focus
    Forgive Cardinals fans if they aren't going to be paying much attention during Monday's MLB draft: There isn't much for them.

    That's in part because they gave up their first-round selection to sign centerfielder Dexter Fowler to a five-year, $82.5 million deal. Not bad for a player who settled for a one-year contract last offseason. (The Cards also lost two selections after one of their employees was caught hacking the Houston Astros, but let's ignore that for now...)

    Fowler has had a so-so start to his Cardinals tenure. A 2016 World Series champion with the rival Cubs, he got off to a slow start in St. Louis with a high strikeout rate and little power during his first few weeks. However, he has rebounded and has eight homers, four triples and eight doubles through 55 contests. His .227 batting average isn't pretty, but he draws walks (.317 on-base percentage) and provides some pop at the top of the Cards' lineup.

    The 31-year-old was worth 4.7 wins above replacement last season according to Fangraphs, but he has produced just a 0.5 WAR this year. That's mostly thanks to defensive metrics seeing his defense as much worse this season than last. He's still a solid force on the basepaths, but he's getting up there for a guy based in part around his speed.

    Like many players in the game, he's unafraid to strike out. He's K'd at least 104 times in each of his full big-league seasons and is on pace to do so again with 49 strikeouts in 2017.

    4. Players to watch
    Phillies: After going 2 for 3 on Friday, Howie Kendrick is hitting .347 this season. He's 12 for 33 (.364) since he was reinstated from the disabled list.

    Cardinals: First baseman Matt Carpenter went 2 for 4 in the leadoff spot on Friday and is now 5 for 12 with two home runs in the No. 1 spot for the Cards.

    5. This and that
    • The Phillies are 4-4 to start June this season. That's much better than last year. The month was their worst a year ago with a 9-19 record while allowing 5.75 runs per game. 

    • They went 2-5 vs. the Cardinals last year, losing three of four in St. Louis. They haven't won the season series vs. the Cardinals since 2014 and haven't won a series at Busch Stadium III since 2012. After taking three of four there in 2012, they are 4-12 there.

    • The Phillies' Triple A affiliate, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, had a four-game winning streak snapped on Friday. At 41-20, they have the best record in the International League.