While Carlos Martinez has enjoyed a successful first full season as a starter for the St. Louis Cardinals, he's struggled at home of late.
The right-hander can turn things around at Busch Stadium with another dominating start against the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday night.
After contributing almost exclusively out of the bullpen for St. Louis (97-56) each of the past two years, Martinez (14-7, 3.01 ERA) has the second-most wins on the team and would appear to be in good position for a spot in the NL Division Series' rotation.
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"I always want to give my team the best chance to win a game," he told MLB's official website. "That's all I'm worried about all the time."
Following a five-start stretch where he went 1-3 with a 5.60 ERA, Martinez is 1-0 with a 1.84 ERA in two starts that both came on the road. The first came at Milwaukee on Sept. 15, when he allowed a Khris Davis homer and three other hits and struck out nine in eight innings of a 3-1, 10-inning victory.
"He gets the excitement around this (time of year), and being here, and he feeds off that stuff," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said about Martinez, who has yielded only that home run and fanned 17 in 15 innings against the Brewers this season.
Matheny, though, would like to see Martinez fare better at home, where he went 5-2 with a 2.28 ERA in his first nine starts but is 1-2 with a 6.11 ERA in the last five.
Davis is 4 for 10 with that homer and two doubles against Martinez, who tries to lead St. Louis to a sixth consecutive victory following Thursday's 7-3 win over the Brewers (64-89).
Jhonny Peralta and Stephen Piscotty hit back-to-back homers and combined for seven RBIs as the major league-leading Cardinals won for the ninth time in the last 11 games to remain four ahead of Pittsburgh in the NL Central.
"I love it. With the fans and crowd here, once you get a little taste of that, you're not playing for your numbers," Piscotty said. "You're playing for those moments."
The numbers haven't been bad for Piscotty, who homered for the sixth time and is batting .313 with 37 RBIs in 58 games since making his major league debut July 21.
He's has seven RBIs in six games against Milwaukee. However, Piscotty went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts against Ariel Pena (2-0, 3.50) when the right-hander yielded a run in five innings against Martinez and the Cardinals last week.
Though Pena has walked 10 and not completed more than five innings in any of his three career starts this month, he hasn't allowed more than two runs in any of those contests.
"He's certainly representing himself well," manager Craig Counsell said. "He's given us a chance to win in all three starts."
Jonathan Lucroy delivered a pinch-hit single Thursday in his first action since suffering a concussion Sept. 8. Counsell said Lucroy won't catch again this season but could play first base and pinch hit at some point of the next week.
"It's the type of injury where you want to feel like you're back to normal," Counsell said.