Cardinals first baseman Jose Martínez likes to joke around — he has a handshake with every teammate and can always be seen making someone laugh. He even throws a baseball into the upper deck before every game.
When he makes his way from the on-deck circle to the batter’s box, though, a look of determination takes over. Martínez got that look on his face once again in the third inning, Monday night.
He launched an 0-1 changeup over the newly-added Red Schoendienst memorial on the right-centerfield wall for a two-run homer to give the Cardinals the lead.
Martínez went 3-4 with a home run, two RBI and two runs scored in Monday night’s 4-2 victory over the last-place San Diego Padres.
The first baseman has torn the cover off the ball since the beginning of June, going 17-32 (.531) with five home runs and 11 RBI in a current nine-game hit streak.
His dominance comes as a pleasant surprise for Cardinals fans, as the team has been looking for Matt Adams’ replacement since trading him in 2017.
Martínez, a career Minor-Leaguer, hit .309 in his appearances in 2017, earning him a spot as the Cardinals everyday first baseman in 2018.
He’s certainly picked up the slack and then some, as he’s very much in the All-Star Game conversation. The 29-year-old is hitting .327 on the season with 10 HR and 42 RBI. While he doesn’t provide elite defense, his bat makes him more than qualified to represent the Cardinals in the Nation’s capital at the 2018 All-Star Game.
Martínez’s production was enough to back rookie Jack Flaherty’s impressive start Monday night.
Flaherty earned his third win of the season in six and a third innings pitched, striking out six, walking one, and giving up a run on three hits.
“We were just throwing with more conviction tonight,” Flaherty said. “Last time out I said I didn’t really execute well. I feel like it had a lot to do with execution and conviction behind everything, just really throwing everything with intent.”
He retired 14 straight Padres shortly after his only blemish Monday night: a home run to Corey Spangenberg in the second inning.
Spangenberg drew a four-pitch walk with one out in the seventh, becoming San Diego’s first baserunner since a Raffy Lopez single in the second inning.
Monday’s win was a breath of fresh air for Flaherty, as he broke out of a recent slump in which he let up 11 runs in his past 16.1 innings pitched prior to Monday.
The Cardinals hope the rookie continues his dominance on the hill, as starting pitching has been the backbone of the team. The current starting rotation has a combined record of 24-12 and an ERA of 3.18 thus far.
St. Louis looks to guarantee a series victory with a win Tuesday as Miles Mikolas (7-1, 2.27) takes on Matt Strahm (1-2, 3.07 ERA) and the Padres at 7:15 p.m. at Busch Stadium.