Martinez allowed two runs in 7 2-3 innings and the Cardinals scored four unearned runs via a five-error performance by the Twins in a 5-2 Johnson City victory at Cardinal Park.
The win evened the season series 3-3 and moved the second-place Cardinals (17-17) within four games of the Twins (22-14) in the Appalachian League’s West Division.
Martinez (3-1), a 21-year-old right-hander from the Dominican Republic, struck out eight and walked none to help scatter seven hits. He was relieved by Kender Villegas, who came on to face Nick Gordon with two outs and a runner (Pat Kelly) on third in the eighth with Johnson City leading 5-2.
Villegas got Gordon to ground out to first to end the frame and faced the minimum in the ninth for his first save thanks to a game-ending 6-3 double play that athletic Oscar Mercado punctuated with a strong throw.
“Martinez had his sinker working and his slider – a good mix,” Johnson City manager Johnny Rodriguez said. “He was very, very good. He had very good deception on his delivery today. They were not picking him up early.”
Gordon had two of the seven hits Martinez allowed, including an RBI double high off the right-field wall in the third that tied the score at 2.
“Gordon’s a very good hitter and he’d seen Martinez three times and he hit one off the wall off of him,” Rodriguez said. “I didn’t want him to run into another one in the gap or somewhere and all the sudden they get some hope. … And I know the mix that Villegas has; he keeps the ball down. He executed what I told him to do (against Gordon).”
Martinez got nine ground-ball outs, and five of those were choppers. Second baseman Casey Turgeon made a back-handed stab on Max Murphy’s chopper and turned a crowd-pleasing double play after Gordon had led off the sixth with a line-drive single to left.
“That was an outstanding double play,” Rodriguez said. “You’ve gotta make plays defensively when Martinez is pitching. He’s gonna get you the ground balls.”
Johnson City scored two runs in the second on Carlos Torres’ one-out, bases-loaded fielder’s choice. Second baseman Pat Kelly mishandled Gordon’s throw to second, and Chris Rivera scored from third and Jose Gomez scored from second.
The Twins hit three batters, two of which scored. Mercado was hit by a pitch with one out in the fifth and scored to give Johnson City a 3-2 lead on Cole Lankford’s ground-out.
The Cardinals concluded the scoring with two in the sixth, which was highlighted by Anthony Ray’s one-out triple to left. Ray and Torres scored on Blake Drake’s hard-hit, two-out ball that went between the legs of third baseman Tyler Mautner.
“That was a rope,” Rodriguez said. “Anywhere else it’s base-hit, but it went right between the legs. But you can’t fault that third baseman. He’s playing middle – double-play depth, and you get a rope like that off a right-hander.”
Casey Grayson was 1-for-3 with a double off the left-center field wall and a walk. Ray was 2-for-4.
“Ray had two very good hits,” Rodriguez said. “Grayson swung the bat well and had a big walk, too.”
Kelly was 3-for-3 for the Twins, including a double just inside the right-field line and just beyond a diving Blake Drake, who’d covered a lot of ground on the hard-hit ball.
Michael Cederoth (2-2) allowed three runs (one earned) in five innings for the Twins.
The series finale is set for today at 4 p.m. Landon Beck (1-0, 3.48 ERA), a 6-foot-3 right-hander, will start for Johnson City.