Mets rock Phillies, Martin

Ethan Martin pitched four innings, giving up four hits, three runs, and three walks. He struck out nine batters. The Mets went on to score eight more runs off the bullpen. SETH WENIG / AP
Ethan Martin pitched four innings, giving up four hits, three runs, and three walks. He struck out nine batters. The Mets went on to score eight more runs off the bullpen. SETH WENIG / AP
Posted: August 31, 2013

NEW YORK - The final pitch Ethan Martin threw Thursday was a 92-m.p.h. fastball that Eric Young Jr. watched. Home-plate umpire Doug Eddings, who applied a getaway-day strike zone, punched the air and shouted. Martin ambled toward the Phillies dugout. His day was done after four innings and 86 pitches in an 11-3 Mets win.

The performance served as the latest case for Martin's eventual transition to relief. The crudeness outweighed the promise of nine strikeouts in a burst. Martin's powerful arm tires swiftly. His ERA is 6.39. Just one of his six starts has lasted longer than five innings.

"I felt pretty decent in almost every start," said Martin, who allowed four hits and three runs. "It's just that when I get to that 60-pitch mark, I kind of struggle. I have to get to where I can sit back and get through there. Hopefully I can get to that point this year."

Most scouts have viewed Martin, 24, as an eventual reliever because of his inability to pitch deep into games and the lack of a third serviceable pitch. The Phillies are in desperate need of power bullpen parts. They could hasten his move by inserting Tyler Cloyd into the rotation in September.

Interim manager Ryne Sandberg said those discussions had not yet happened.

"With a young guy like that, this is late in the year for him," Sandberg said. "He hadn't really experienced the number of innings and the number of pitches that he's thrown. That's taken effect on him a little bit, but, you know, it was quality for three [innings] and he hit a wall after the fourth."

Martin became only the ninth starting pitcher since 1916 to strike out nine in four or fewer innings. Remarkably, he is the second Phillie to do it in 2013. Roy Halladay fanned nine in 31/3 innings during his season debut in Atlanta.

The Mets fielded a triple-A lineup and still punished Martin. Six of the nine starting Mets were minor-league players in 2013. Once Martin vanished, they mashed a tortured bullpen. Justin De Fratus was tagged for four runs. It was unwatchable.

The Phillies did not score until the seventh inning. Domonic Brown started for the first time in four games and batted cleanup. He twice singled.

Martin, at least, pitched more than he did Saturday, when he failed to escape the first inning. He is averaging 11.4 strikeouts per nine innings, a rate that is more conducive to relieving than starting. (The more strikeouts a pitcher has, the higher his pitch count is.) Antonio Bastardo is second on the team with 9.9 strikeouts per nine innings.

"He's got a live arm and had those punch-outs," Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy said. "His fastball's got some life to it. But we got some good pitches to hit and we just didn't miss them."

Martin dodged first-inning trouble. He struck out the side in the second. In the fourth, Mets backup catcher Anthony Recker crushed a first-pitch fastball. Martin willed the ball foul. It wrapped just inside the foul pole for a two-run homer. The rookie pitcher, soon to depart, asked for a new ball.


Contact Matt Gelb

at mgelb@phillynews.com. Follow

@magelb on Twitter.

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