Before his first career start in the major leagues on Wednesday, the last time we had seen San Francisco Giants pitcher Joe Martinez was when he got hit in the head by a Mike Cameron line drive in the third game of the season.
In between were seven days spent in the hospital and intensive care unit, a trip to San Jose for a couple rehabilitation starts, some minor shoulder inflammation that put his rehab work on hold, and a six-start stint at the Giants' Triple-A affiliate in Fresno.
But now he's back in the big leagues. And he got a win to top it all off.
His line won't blow you away—5 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 4 K—but that's expected when a guy is making his first-ever start in the big leagues, let alone somebody who is coming off of what Martinez did in his last outing. Other than the second inning where the Astros scored all of their runs, Martinez was calm and collected as he always is.
He was effective even though he had been away from a major league mound for over four months and wasn't rattled one bit.
Sure the storylines were aplenty going into the game, but don’t you think Giants manager Bruce Bochy wanted to leave Houston with another series win under his team’s belt as well?
Yet, even though he overcame a liner to the head and spent weeks upon weeks in the minor leagues rehabbing, Martinez didn’t show any kind of fear on the mound. The best thing about Martinez’s outing today against Houston—no walks.
How many times have you seen a guy not walk anybody and then be successful because of it?
When you're playing in a bandbox like the Big Juice Box, giving teams extra runners just doesn't scream out to the masses that you'll be getting a victory. Martinez gave up seven hits, but not walking anybody balanced things out.
It didn't hurt that Martinez's battery-mate, Eli Whiteside, also had his first career home run come in the form of a grand slam.
There was so much more that went into this start than just a victory for the Giants and Martinez. If the Giants had taken the loss and Martinez pitched well, there still would've been reasons to be happy about getaway day in Houston.
It would've been a moral victory even if he got tagged with the loss. You can't deny that.
The Astros might of not had the Big Puma in the lineup Wednesday, but they still have Miguel Tejada and Carlos Lee attempting to pepper the Crawford Boxes every plate appearance they record.
Add the fact that the Giants barely scratched out three victories the last time they hit the road and to win two games in the matter in three days means they’ve got some confidence going the next time a roadie beckons.
Yet the Giants find themselves in a situation that they need to have even their fifth starter pitching well because they are in the National League Wild Card race.
The last thing the Giants need right now as the dog days of August get underway is to have a revolving door at the backend of the rotation. Shuffling guys back-and-forth between Fresno an San Francisco is something that the coaching staff and GM Brian Sabean certainly don't want to start doing.
And that is why Martinez's start, beyond the liner to the head and subsequent four-month absence, means more than just a story in tomorrow's paper. Martinez doesn’t need to be spectacular, leave that up to the big boys named Cain and Lincecum, but just go out there and be solid.
That’s what Martinez did Wednesday and the Giants bats did the rest.
You get your fifth starter pitching well to go along with the way the other four are pitching lately, the Giants won’t have to completely rip the cover off the ball at the plate to get victories.
One start doesn't cement his spot in the rotation for the rest of the season, but it certainly helps Martinez's case going into the next couple of weeks.
And he got his last out of his outing via strikeout. Every pitcher loves that.
So far so good. Test No. 1 passed with ease.