SAN DIEGO -- If Carlos Martinez has his say, the National League Wild Card race is going to come down to the wire. The Cardinals right-hander was brilliant in a Labor Day matinee Monday, headlining a 2-0 victory over the Padres at Petco Park.
Martinez, who also blanked the Phillies on June 10, allowed three singles and three walks in his second career complete game. He struck out 10 and used 109 pitches -- 76 strikes -- to blow through a weary San Diego lineup, playing its fifth game in 70 hours. Martinez did not permit a Padres baserunner to reach scoring position.
"He's thrown, in my opinion, way better than his record [now 11-10] shows," manager Mike Matheny said. "I think he's taken that next step as the pitcher we talked about this spring and the pitcher we expected him to be, the pitcher we gave our Opening Day start to. I don't think there is a team in the league that wants to face him."
Martinez said he first zeroed in on finishing the game after seeing his pitch count at 63 after five innings. He threw his four-hardest pitches in the final two frames, joking afterward that he wanted to light up the radar gun to assure his manager that he was still strong.
"Types of games like this -- complete games or games where I'm really effective -- I need that mentally," Martinez said, speaking through a translator. "It shows me what I'm capable of and what kind of season I want to have and what I want to aspire to do."
The win keeps the Cardinals three games back of the Rockies for the second NL Wild Card spot. In the process, they moved within 1 1/2 games of the Brewers, who lost Monday in Cincinnati.
Martinez outdueled former Cardinals farmhand Luis Perdomo, acquired by the Padres at the 2015 Rule 5 Draft. Perdomo allowed two runs on seven hits while striking out six. Of late, the young right-hander has developed a knack for escaping trouble spots. He's pitched at least six innings in nine consecutive starts.
But Perdomo allowed the first four Cardinals to reach base in the fourth, with Yadier Molina's two-run single serving as the game's only offense. The Padres had scored 18 runs in the previous three games, but only mustered three hits against Martinez, two from Wil Myers
"You can attribute it to fatigue or you can tip your cap to a guy who was really good today," said Padres manager Andy Green. "I thought Carlos Martinez was really good today."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Not so glovely: Molina's go-ahead single was aided by some shoddy defense from left fielder Jose Pirela -- who had made significant strides at the position recently. With the bases loaded in the fourth, Molina lifted an apparent sacrifice fly toward Pirela, who ranged to the warning track. The ball bounced off his glove and toward center field instead, allowing a second run to score.
Go the distance: Martinez put himself in harm's way in the ninth, by walking the leadoff man, Pirela. But he responded by breezing through the heart of the Padres lineup, retiring Yangervis Solarte, Myers and Cory Spangenberg in order. It marked the third time this season that Martinez has pitched nine scoreless, but one of those games went extras, negating his chance at a third shutout.
"We needed him to finish what he started there," Matheny said. "When he's under 100 pitches and he's going like he is, and we're still figuring out our bullpen, it was a pretty easy decision with how it worked out."
"When I work out and prepare in the offseason, it's really for the month of September and possibly going to the postseason so I can be really strong." -- Martinez, whose 183 innings pitched this season ranks second-most among all National League starters
WHERE THERE'S A WIL...
With his two singles, Myers has notched multiple hits in three consecutive games for the first time this year. It's a positive step for the Padres first baseman, who has slumped through the second half of the season. After the game, he was candid about his need to respond better to his poor plate appearances.
"I haven't handled my struggles very well," Myers said. "One of those things that's kind of been my downfall is not handling the failure as well."
During Spring Training, Myers set a lofty goal of 40 homers and 40 steals. With 24 games remaining, he has 24 and 17, respectively. How have those goals changed?
"Thirty homers," Myers said. "And I'd like to get to 20 bags. I think that's something that I can do."
Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter (right shoulder tendinitis) and left fielder Tommy Pham (right shoulder soreness) exited Monday's game prematurely. Carpenter came out midway through the fifth after going 0-for-3. Pham, who had also bloodied his nose on a fourth-inning slide, left in the seventh. More >>
WHAT'S NEXT Cardinals:Michael Wacha, who held the Giants to one run over six innings in his last start, will take the ball for St. Louis in Tuesday's 9:10 p.m. CT game at Petco Park. Wacha is 2-0 with a 1.89 ERA in three career starts against the Padres.
Padres:Travis Wood starts Tuesday against St. Louis, looking to continue his trend of impressive outings at Petco Park. Since coming to San Diego at the Deadline, Wood owns a 1.61 ERA in four home starts. First pitch is slated for 7:10 p.m. PT.