Bullpen Allows Five, Spoils Return of Molina and Martinez

Jun 5, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina (4) follows through on a RBI single during the second inning against the Miami Marlins at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports

Carlos Martinez and Yadier Molina came out of Tuesday’s pregame bullpen session without much emotion on their faces.

Both returned from stints on the disabled list, Martinez had a lat strain and Molina had a groin injury after getting hit by a foul ball.

Both player’s return created a buzz around the ballpark.

After Marcell Ozuna found his way to second base on a passed ball in the second inning, Molina made his way to the batters box.

Before public address announcer John Ulett could say Molina’s name, a crowd of over 40,000 fans rose to its feet, rejoicing in the future Hall-of-Famer’s return in a crucial RBI situation.

“I wasn’t surprised at all. I know what kind of fans we got, and they didn’t disappoint me,” Molina said about the fans before his first at-bat. “That was awesome to feel, awesome to watch.”

Molina roped a 3-2 slider into left field to give the Cardinals an early 1-0 lead.

The lead didn’t last long, Martinez gave up a pair of runs in the the next frame. His return wasn’t as poetic as Molina’s in Tuesday’s 7-4 loss to the lowly Miami Marlins.

Although those two runs were his only blemish on the night, it didn’t tell the whole story.

Martinez struggled to find the strike zone throughout, walking five Marlins hitters — three of them coming on four pitches. His spotty command never caught up to him, as he forced double plays and struck out batters to work his way out of jams in the second and third innings.

Martinez finally settled down in the fourth with a 1-2-3 inning, including a pair of strikeouts, to end his day. In four innings pitched, he allowed nine baserunners and struck out five.

“He’s such a feel pitcher,” manager Mike Matheny said. “Just one of those days where he couldn’t quite get everything timed up.”

Even with Martinez’s struggles Tuesday night, the Cardinals still found themselves tied 2-2 to a team that scored a combined four runs in its last three ballgames.

A questionable call by Matheny allowed career-Minor-League relief pitcher Preston Guilmet to make his season debut in the fifth inning.

With two outs and a run scored on the inning, Guilmet made matters worse leaving a fastball down the middle for Brian Anderson, who took it deep giving Miami a 5-2 lead.

St. Louis’ resiliency, a trait that’s helped them lead the Major Leagues in walk-off wins, showed in the bottom half of the inning. Ozuna’s third hit of the game drove in Jose Martinez to cut the Marlins’ lead to just one, but yet another call to the bullpen by Matheny made matters worse.

Rookie Austin Gomber, who had only three innings pitched in his MLB career at the time, entered in a crucial spot in the sixth inning. While the 24-year-old shined in his debut Saturday (3.0 IP, 0 hits, 0 runs, 2 K), he did the opposite Tuesday night.

J.T. Riddle launched a ball into the left-center field bleachers to lead off the inning, and a Derek Deitrich sacrifice fly a few batters later, killed whatever momentum the Cardinals may have built up as the Marlins extended their lead to a score of 7-4.

Back-to-back singles by Dexter Fowler and Yairo Muñoz with no outs in the bottom of the sixth gave St. Louis hope of a rally. The Marlins promptly set down the next twelve batters to close out the first of a three game series.

“Some days it looks right and other days it’s a fight. That’s one of those games, we’re just a big hit away and completely turn it in a different direction. Unfortunately, it just went in the same direction, and you’re going to have those,” Matheny said. “Guys have been doing their work; they’re competing. Everybody knows what they need to improve on. Some days it just doesn’t come as easy.”

Jack Flaherty (2-1, 2.62 ERA) looks to even the series against the Marlins and Wei-Yin Chen (1-3, 6.10 ERA) at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday at Busch Stadium.

Jack Parodi covers the St. Louis Cardinals and you can find him on Twitter @jack_parodi