Carlos Martinez made his first opening day start Sunday for the Cardinals, and he didn't disappoint the St. Louis faithful on hand.
The 25-year-old righty, who went 16-9 with a sterling 3.04 ERA and 174 strikeouts last season, stepped onto the mound as the Cardinals' new ace and didn't bat an eye at his unfamiliar responsibility. Martinez fired seven shutout innings Sunday while allowing just six hits and striking out 10 Cubs in a 4-3 walk-off win.
The defending World Series champs had no answer for Martinez's 95-plus mph heat and a deceptive changeup that still touched 90 on the radar gun.
Unfortunately for Martinez, he was stripped of his win on opening day when closer Seung-Hwan Oh gave up a three-run home run to Willson Contreras with one out in the top of the ninth inning.
Hope started to fade from the remaining Cardinals fans still in Busch Stadium after a steady rain hit late in the game. But Randal Grichuk, who had already hit a two-run home run in the eighth inning, would not let the Cubs pull off another improbable win.
Grichuk stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning, with two outs, and lifted a single into center field that plated pinch-hitter Jose Martinez for the winning run.
St. Louis has become accustomed to donning one of MLB's best rotations each year. Injuries and inconsistencies plagued the team last year, however, which dampened expectations a bit heading into this season.
Manager Mike Matheny will have to lean on Martinez on the mound this season, and though he stands just 6-foot, he has a cannon for an arm. Martinez also proved last season (195 1/3 innings pitched) that he possesses the stamina to be an innings eater in time.
Martinez also displayed class before the game when he took a moment to write the uniform numbers of deceased former MLB stars Oscar Taveras (18) and Yordano Ventura (30) in the dirt on the back of the mound.
The Cardinals have a plethora of young talent.
Though unproven, they could step up and make St. Louis a dangerous postseason team once again. Grichuk and Martinez certainly helped ease concerns Sunday.