The Iowa Cubs had virtually no chance to develop any confidence against Carlos Martinez on Sunday night.
"If he wasn't ahead, 0-1, he came right back to 1-1 and went ahead from there," Memphis pitching coach Bryan Eversgerd said. "All night, there were only two counts that got to three balls."
Martinez, the Cardinals' top pitching prospect, established season highs with eight strikeouts over 7 2/3 innings and gave up three hits in the Redbirds' 6-0 blanking of the Cubs at AutoZone Park.
It was the longest stint by a Memphis pitcher this year and Martinez's longest since he worked eight innings in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League on June 28, 2010.
Martinez (2-1) came to the Pacific Coast League at the end of May after making three starts for Double-A Springfield and seven appearances in the big leagues. He went 6-5 with a 2.93 across two Minor League levels last season.
"He's a 21-year-old kid and he's coming along nicely. I've got a good relationship with him," said Eversgerd, who pitched for the Cardinals, Expos and Rangers from 1994-98. "He trusts that I'm trying to help him and we talk a lot. I'm generally impressed with his progress so far."
That progress was a factor in Martinez's success on Sunday as the right-hander implemented lessons he'd been working on with Eversgerd.
"He used all his pitches -- he throws a good four-seam fastball, a curveball and he threw a real nice changeup and got some swings and misses tonight," Eversgerd said. "One of the things we wanted to get him to do was throw secondary pitches. He had been throwing lot of fastballs, almost too many. We're lucky we have a veteran catcher in Rob Johnson, and he did a great job getting him to mix his pitches."
Martinez retired his first five batters, fanning two in the second. After Tim Torres doubled in the third, he set down nine Cubs in a row. A two-out throwing error by the native of the Dominican Republic put J.C. Boscan aboard in the fifth, but he bounced back by striking out Cubs No. 12 prospect Jae-Hoon Ha.
Martinez gave up a single to Dave Sappelt in the seventh, got the first two outs of the eighth and exited after throwing 71 of 102 pitches for strikes. For the second time in his last three starts, he did not walk a batter.
"We have some guys at 110," Eversgerd said, referring to pitch limits, "but we wanted to keep him around 105. We were happy with that."
Martinez seemed especially pleased with his ability to attack the zone.
"He himself was pretty happy about that," Eversgerd said. "I talked to him after the game and he was really excited he didn't walk anybody."
In his last start, Martinez allowed three runs on four walks and five hits over 4 2/3 innings.
"One of the biggest things is that in game situations, he can overthrow at times," Eversgerd noted. "He needs to understand -- like he did tonight -- his stuff is there. He needs to stay under control. He can pitch with feeling and still stay within himself."
Top Cardinals prospect Oscar Taveras, sidelined nearly a month with an ankle injury, exited after delivering a three-run double and scoring in the third. Kolten Wong, ranked just behind Taveras and Martinez in the St. Louis system, notched his sixth triple of the season.