Immediately after Adam Wainwright went down with a season-ending Achilles injury, the St. Louis starting staff experienced more than two weeks of struggles.
The Cardinals have turned that around, and plenty of the recent success has to do with Carlos Martinez, who takes the mound Sunday against the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers.
In 15 games after Wainwright went down on April 25, the starting staff had a 5.06 ERA and .294 opponent batting average. The rotation claimed only four victories during a 10-5 stretch for the team, despite a 5.59 run-support average.
In 18 since, the rotation has a 2.55 ERA to move to the top of the majors at 3.07 for the season.
Martinez (4-2, 3.54 ERA) is coming off his best home start in Monday's 3-2, 10-inning victory over Arizona. The right-hander limited the Diamondbacks to five hits while striking out eight in seven scoreless innings.
"It's a shame we couldn't hold it for him," manager Mike Matheny said. "He had some of the consistency that we've wanted to see."
Combined with 6 1-3 scoreless in his previous start at the New York Mets, the 23-year-old is three innings shy of the personal-best 16 1-3 he went without allowing a run between Aug. 22-Sept. 23, though all of that came in relief.
Martinez has faced the Dodgers four times, and in three starts he's never made it more than 4 2-3 innings while posting a 5.54 ERA. The five active Dodgers who have faced him - A.J. Ellis, Adrian Gonzalez, Andre Ethier, Scott Van Slyke and Jimmy Rollins - are a combined 5 for 24 (.208) against him.
This time, he'll be up against a Los Angeles lineup that finally cleared its head in Saturday's 5-1 win. Before a four-run sixth inning, the Dodgers (29-19) had been held scoreless in 42 innings on the road with four straight shutouts.
"It was a relief, for sure," manager Don Mattingly said. "It was good to put a few up."
Yasmani Grandal returned after missing six games with a concussion and connected on a three-run homer, giving the catcher a .420 average and 1.248 OPS with 18 RBIs in his last 16 games.
The Cardinals (32-17) saw their five-game overall and home winning streaks come to an end. Matt Holliday left in the fourth inning due to illness, but he walked an inning before to extend his franchise-record streak of games reaching safely to start a season to 44. Dating to last season, he's reached in 46 straight, the franchise's longest run since Jim Edmonds went 47 in 2004.
He's just 4 for 22 since the start of 2014 against the Dodgers, but an absence Sunday could complicate getting to a Los Angeles starting staff that's posted a 1.36 ERA in the last five games. Brett Anderson is next in line to extend that.
Anderson (2-2, 3.47) has been strong this month, but has been overshadowed by offensive struggles. The left-hander didn't earn the decision after allowing two runs and seven hits in seven innings of Monday's 6-3 home win over Atlanta. He's 1-1 with a 2.12 ERA and eight total runs of support in five starts this month.
The latest start nearly ended in the fifth inning with back stiffness, but he continued on and is starting on regular rest.
"People have labeled him soft in his career and injury-prone, but this is an example to us just how tough this guy is," Ellis told MLB's official website.
He hasn't faced the Cardinals, but he's been strong against Peter Bourjos (1 for 10) and Jhonny Peralta (1 for 9 with a home run), the only two St. Louis players he's encountered.