ST. LOUIS -- Most starting pitchers wouldn't think twice about turning down anyone who wanted to spend time with them two hours before they took the mound for a game.
St. Louis Cardinals hurler Carlos Martinez does things a little differently, so when a group from his native Dominican Republic asked for him before Wednesday night's start against the Los Angeles Dodgers, he said yes.
"It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for those kids, and I felt like I needed to be out there with them," he said through an interpreter. "They're kids that don't have a lot. They needed that support."
Motivated by their presence, Martinez cooled off the streaking Dodgers, allowing just four hits and a run in eight innings to earn the win as the St. Louis Cardinals picked up a 2-1 verdict at Busch Stadium.
In upping his record to 4-4, Martinez walked three and struck out nine, throwing 70 of his 106 pitches for strikes. He's pitched 24 1/3 innings in his last three outings, yielding just four runs and fanning 23.
Yet he was in danger of settling for a no-decision, just as he did after blanking San Francisco for nine innings on May 20, when he left for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the eighth in a 1-1 game.
Jose Martinez tapped feebly back to Ross Stripling for the second out. The next batter, Dexter Fowler, produced the reward Martinez and St. Louis desired. He poleaxed a 2-1 slider in the plate's middle over the Cardinals' bullpen in right-center.
The 429-foot blast was Fowler's seventh homer of the year, unlocking the tie and giving Seung Hwan Oh a save situation. After allowing a leadoff bloop single to Adrian Gonzalez, Oh mowed down the next three hitters, fanning Chris Taylor with a nasty 3-2 breaking ball to end it.
"It's been a tough stretch against LA," Martinez said. "I was really focused, wanting to win this one. That's exactly how you do it -- with a team effort."
Martinez's lively right arm misfired at the night's beginning. He coughed up a four-pitch walk to leadoff man Logan Forsythe, then a single to center by Corey Seager. A Dodger offense that had scored 39 runs in a six-game winning streak was at it again.
And then it wasn't. Martinez fanned Yasmani Grandal with a nasty changeup, then induced a 6-4-3 double play from Gonzalez. No one reached scoring position again until the sixth inning.
"You see the first batter of the game, you wonder if he's going to be able to make an adjustment," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. "He got out of the inning, and then he's sailing. It was a great mix of everything."
Gonzalez did nick Martinez in the sixth for a sacrifice fly to center that easily scored Seager, who walked and then reached third on Grandal's single. Kike Hernandez doubled with two outs in the seventh, but pinch-hitter Austin Barnes was overpowered on three pitches for a strikeout.
"He was really good," Seager said of Martinez. "He changed speeds with the heater, he was in the zone. He was effective."
So was the Los Angeles starter, Hyun-Jin Ryu, taking the ball in place of the disabled Alex Wood. Ryu entered the game 2-5 with a 4.28 ERA, but checked a scuffling offense on three hits and a run in six innings, walking one and whiffing four.
The Cardinals' only tally off Ryu was in part the result of a misjudged liner by center fielder Chris Taylor. An infielder by trade, Taylor came in on Paul DeJong's liner with two outs in the second, then realized it was over his head. It was too late, the ball eventually bouncing to the wall as Tommy Pham scored easily.
As the night progressed, St. Louis' outs occurred quicker and quicker, as well as softer and softer. Then Fowler picked on Stripling (0-3) for the homer that presented Martinez with the win his performance merited.
"I told somebody before the game, 'I got to hit it over the fence. I can't hit it to anyone like I've done for eight weeks,'" Fowler said.
It was only the fourth win in 14 games for the Cardinals (25-25). The Dodgers (33-21) lost for only the third time in 13 contests.
NOTES: St. Louis recalled RHP John Gant from Triple-A Memphis before Wednesday night's game and gave RHP Jonathan Broxton his unconditional release. Broxton was 0-1 with a 6.89 ERA in 20 appearances this year. ... Los Angeles 3B Justin Turner (hamstring) took batting practice Wednesday and ran the bases, but at just 70 percent, according to manager Dave Roberts. Turner's return is still at least a week away. ... Cardinals 3B Jedd Gyorko will play Wednesday night and Thursday, but go on paternity leave Friday when the team starts a road trip at the Chicago Cubs. His wife gave birth to their third child Tuesday.