Young Cards arms feed off each other in bullpen
Rosenthal, Maness and Martinez continue strong run by relievers in Game 4
LOS ANGELES -- The Cardinals' bullpen is bursting at the seams with shutdown rookie relievers, and maybe the secret is really as simple as 23-year-old closer Trevor Rosenthal made it sound.
"We just have so many guys doing well, and you want to fit in," Rosenthal said Tuesday night, with the Cards one win shy of the World Series after a 4-2 win in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series. "You don't want to be the guy who goes out there and doesn't do as well as everybody else. That's good motivation."
It's working. Rosenthal followed fellow rookies Seth Maness, 25, and Carlos Martinez, 22, in shutting out the Dodgers over the final 3 2/3 innings of the Cardinals' Game 4 win. Game 5 is Wednesday (3 p.m. CT on TBS).
All three benefitted from a terrific defensive play, and all three continued a run of remarkable success for a bullpen that currently features five rookies and has allowed only four earned runs in 25 innings this postseason, including one earned run in 14 relief innings during the NLCS.
"You see another young guy go out and get it done, it gives you that little more confidence," Maness said. "Everybody feeds off it."
Maness inherited a baserunner from starter Lance Lynn with one out in the sixth inning, with the Cards clinging to a 3-2 lead. He faced postseason-tested Juan Uribe and did what he did all season on the way to a 2.32 ERA. Maness threw three consecutive sinkers, the last grounded to the hole between shortstop and third base. Pete Kozma, who had just entered the game at the start of the half-inning, made a terrific stop to initiate a double play.
"We call [Maness] the ground-ball guy," said Cardinals infielder Daniel Descalso. "All he does is get double plays."
"Credit Kozma. He turned that tough play," Maness said. "I was just trying to get it on the ground for him and give him a chance to turn it."
Up next was Martinez, who touched 100 mph throughout a two-inning, 18-pitch performance. Cards pinch-hitter Shane Robinson had just provided insurance with a solo home run, but Martinez found trouble when Nick Punto, who entered the game as a defensive replacement in the top of the seventh, delivered a one-out double in the bottom half of the inning. Martinez erased the runner with a pick-off move that stunned Punto and 53,992 Dodgers fans.
"Oh my goodness," said right fielder Carlos Beltran, who actually missed the play. "I was kidding when I came to the dugout, because I said, 'What happened?' I just put my head down, and all of a sudden, the guy was out. ... It's a risky play, man. Every time you make a play like that with pitchers, when they have to turn -- and Martinez, a guy throwing 99 -- I was like, 'Wow, if he made a bad throw, it's going to be terrible.' Thank God he made a perfect throw and Kozma was there to get the guy out."
Said Punto: "That was a lonely place to be."
Martinez had no such trouble in a perfect eighth inning, and he completed his first two-inning assignment since Sept. 12.
"We asked a little bit more of him today," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "We got into a position in the game where we were kind of in between, and he's done such a nice job for us in the eighth inning. But today we got to a point where we had a couple right-handers and a tough lefty in the middle, when we were stuck in a spot. We needed to come in with our best, and Carlos has been very good."
Rosenthal closed the game in the ninth with his own escape. Andre Ethier led off with a single, but he was erased when dangerous Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig hit a grounder to second baseman Matt Carpenter, who was able to tag out Ethier and throw to first base for another double play.
Rosenthal then struck out Uribe to end the game.
"One of my main goals has been out there to just be another guy," Rosenthal said. "We've got a bunch of guys out there who have experience closing and could get the job done. I'm enjoying what we've got."