The St. Louis Cardinals started a long road trip in a sloppy way, but Carlos Martinez is there to help the best team in the majors clean up the mess.
St. Louis has won 82 percent of the games Martinez starts this year, and the right-hander will take the Petco Park mound Saturday night against the San Diego Padres hoping to wash away the taste of an error-filled opener.
The Cardinals (77-44) still have a 4 1/2-game lead over Pittsburgh in the NL Central and six upcoming games against the under-.500 Padres (60-62) and Diamondbacks (60-61) on their West Coast trip.
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But San Diego has turned a corner over the last week, winning four straight and six of seven. The Padres will look to take the season series against the Cardinals on Saturday with their fourth win in six tries.
For the Cardinals, Martinez has been the right man for the job. St. Louis is 18-4 when the right-hander starts this season.
Martinez (12-5, 2.78 ERA) didn't get a decision against the Padres in a 2-1 Cardinals win on July 4 after lasting 6 2/3 innings and surrendering eight hits and a run, his only start against San Diego after three rocky relief appearances in 2013-14.
Jedd Gyorko has four singles in five at-bats against Martinez, while Yangervis Solarte is 2 for 5 with a home run that came in last month's meeting. Solarte homered for the third straight game in Friday's 9-3 win, giving him six hits and seven RBIs in this impressive stretch.
"He believes he can play. You can see it in him. Look at the way he responds to a poor at-bat. This kid believes, and I think that's a big part of the battle," interim manager Pat Murphy told MLB's official website.
Errors from Mark Reynolds, Stephen Piscotty and Kolten Wong led to San Diego's five-run fifth inning. Two Wong errors hurt Martinez on Sunday in a 6-4 loss to the Marlins.
"We've done a nice job of not having multiple mistakes in a game defensively and when you do see it, it stands out," manager Mike Matheny said. "We have had a couple of those this year where we talk about the defense looking uncharacteristically off and just on a couple plays, and absolutely every time this happens it's going to cost you in the long run."
Martinez gave up five runs and seven hits in five innings of work against Miami. It was the third time in his last four starts that he lasted five, a stretch that's resulted in a 1-1 record and 5.09 ERA.
Ian Kennedy has been trending in the opposite direction for the Padres.
Kennedy (7-11, 4.20) started the year 2-5 with a 7.15 ERA through eight starts, but he has been solid since June 2. In his last 14 starts, Kennedy has a 2.82 ERA and has allowed more than three runs just once.
That period included a 3-1 loss to the Cardinals on July 5 in which Kennedy tossed six innings and allowed three runs. Yadier Molina went 2 for 3 with a double in that game, and the St. Louis catcher is 5 for 15 lifetime against Kennedy with three doubles.
Three of the four runs he allowed in Sunday's 5-0 loss at Colorado were unearned due to Derek Norris' dropped pop-up at first base in the seventh inning.
Right fielder Jason Heyward was a late addition to St. Louis' lineup Friday after successfully testing out his sore hamstring. Heyward went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts and a walk.
San Diego center fielder Travis Jankowski became the ninth player in franchise history to have two or more hits in his big-league debut with a pair of singles Friday.