ATLANTA — The Carlos Martinez experience has almost never been stress-free. That's a given. He certainly lives up to that "tsunami" nickname.
During his 48 regular season appearances, he allowed at least one base runner 31 times. But on the flip side, he was also 24 for 27 in save opportunities.
It was pretty much never pretty, but Martinez was overall a success at closing out games for the Central Division champion Cardinals.
But now, with the bright lights of the postseason on him, the Carlos Martinez experience has become maybe the biggest question for the Cardinals during the NLDS.
Martinez had two frankly awful appearances in Games 1 and 2 against the Braves, where he allowed six runs, three walks and two home runs in his two and a third innings.
He was able to tiptoe out of danger in Game 2 to get the Cardinals the win, but wasn't quite so lucky in Game 3, where his blown save cost his team a 2-1 lead in the series.
The Carlos Martinez experience has never been for the faint of heart, and Mike Shildt and the Cardinals have made it crystal clear that he's still their guy. That's why they sent him out in a tie game in the ninth inning of a do-or-die Game 4 a day after imploding and changing the entire course of the series.
Before Game 4, Shildt said he was going to have a conversation with Martinez about where his head was at. Not only has the 28-year-old righty been roughed up by the Braves on the field, it's gotten a bit personal between Atlanta and Martinez, especially with the Braves' start center fielder, Ronald Acuna Jr.
"I've known Carlos for a while now. I knew him a little before I got him in 2012 in extended spring training but I got to know him in 2012, so you're going on a seven year relationship with Carlos. And the one thing I sincerely appreciate about Carlos is his competitive spirit," Shildt said after Game 4. "You just know he's got the verve to handle these type of situations. But I did want to make sure his head was in a good space and he was going to focus on executing his pitches. So we spoke this morning, and It was a beautiful response... He's got the quarterback mentality. It was almost like, 'What do you mean? I'm good, ready to go'. I looked him in the eye, and I know him."
So Carlos passed the Shildt eye test, and was trotted out there in a tied ninth inning of Game 4 to a fair amount of 'boos' from the Busch Stadium crowd.
Then it looked like we were in for another rough ride on the Carlos Martinez experience...
"I loved the way the ball was coming out... We had Miles playing some catch... There was a contingency plan if didn't look right," Shildt said. "But in the first at-bat to Acuna, I was like, 'it's coming out nice'... And then he (Acuna) kind of hooked a ball down the line and you're like, 'Oh boy'".
Oh boy is right. Acuna's lead off double in the ninth led to a collective groan from Cardinals fans and had everybody thinking, 'Here we go again'.
But Martinez righted the ship, got three quick outs, stranded Acuna on third and put those worries to rest. It really was an inning of redemption after a heartbreaking ending in Game 3.
His Cardinals teammates weren't surprised, though.
"He's got lights out stuff, and we've all seen him throw a whole bunch and seeing him go out and pitch like he did today is a good thing," reliever John Brebbia said after Game 4. "It's always good to get some redemption but it's no surprise with him and how he throws."
"Carlos is our guy. We trust him," Game 4 hero Yadier Molina said. "He's having a tough series but he did his job tonight and we want to count on him."
And like it or not as a Cardinals fan, Shildt and his team are going to continue to count on Carlos in Game 5 of the NLDS, and as long as the Cardinals still have postseason life. They've made that pretty clear.