ST. LOUIS -- Baseball history has seen a player hit four home runs in a game 18 times. One of those players did it with the Cardinals. There have been two players with 12 RBIs in a game -- both were Cardinals. And one Cardinals player had four home runs and 12 RBIs in the same game. Only one of the 12 Major Leaguers to have a record five extra-base hits in a game was with the Cardinals.
So, which performance would be the best in St. Louis history? There’s ample room for debate, each performance highlighting a different feat for individual players across the decades. Each of them had a magical day to put in the Cardinals' record books. Here are the five best single-game hitting performances in franchise history.
1. Matt Carpenter, July 20, 2018, vs. the Cubs
Key stats: Had three home runs, two doubles for five hits and 16 total bases
For the first six weeks of the 2018 season, Carpenter struggled at the plate. On May 15, he had a .140 average. As the season continued, Carpenter took on a new hobby -- making homemade salsa. His performance began to heat up, too. On July 20 at Wrigley Field, Carpenter had arguably the most productive single game for a Cardinals hitter, going 5-for-5 with seven RBIs. He tied Lou Brock with his 21st career leadoff home run and joined Albert Pujols as the only Cardinals to have three-homer games against the Cubs.
Carpenter set new club records with 16 total bases and five extra-base hits. He almost didn’t take a fifth at-bat because the game was so out of hand by then (St. Louis went on to win, 18-5), but the chance for a third home run got him to the plate, where he delivered the ball into the basket at the right-field wall.
The only other player in 120 years with three homers and two doubles in a game was the Cubs’ Kris Bryant. It took Bryant eight innings to do what Carpenter had done by the middle of the sixth. Carpenter hit his second homer off Cubs lefty Jon Lester in the second. In the fourth, he doubled twice off two different pitchers. And Carpenter's sixth-inning homer punctuated his historic day.
2. Mark Whiten, Sept. 7, 1993 (Game 2), vs. the Reds
Key stats: Tied two Major League records with four home runs and 12 RBIs in a game
By the time Game 2 of this Cardinals-Reds doubleheader began at 9:46 p.m. ET in Cincinnati, the crowd had thinned out. There wasn’t much to watch in this second game between two sub-.500 teams.
Except for history.
Whiten, a switch-hitting journeyman outfielder who had gone about a month without a home run up until that night, stepped to the plate for his first at-bat and launched a pitch over the left-center-field wall for a grand slam. He was only getting started.
Whiten ended the night with four home runs and 12 RBIs, tying two Major League records. After the grand slam, Whiten followed with two three-run homers off reliever Mike Anderson, and he closed with a two-run homer off Rob Dibble. That blast made him the 12th player in Major League history with four homers in a game.
Whiten went on to have one more year as an everyday starter, leaving St. Louis after the 1994 season. From there, he played for the Red Sox, Phillies, Braves, Mariners, Yankees and Indians. Whiten received all four of his home-run balls that night, and he still gets calls when other players achieve the four-homer feat.
3. Jim Bottomley, Sept. 16, 1924, vs. the Brooklyn Robins
Key stats: Went 6-for-6 with 12 RBIs
The RBI record that Whiten tied in 1993 belonged to another Cardinals player: Bottomley, who drove in 12 runs in Brooklyn in 1924. That record still stands, and it was witnessed by the previous record holder of 11: Robins manager Willie Robinson, who drove in 11 in 1892. But at the time, the RBI wasn’t even a statistic -- daily newspapers didn’t think enough of the stat to include it with the box score after Bottomley’s historic day. It was only mentioned in the game stories.
Bottomley, known as "Sunny Jim," delivered all six times he came to the plate, notching two home runs, a double and three singles off Brooklyn pitchers. To break Robinson’s record, Bottomley came to bat in the ninth inning against rookie Jim Roberts with Rogers Hornsby on third base. Brooklyn didn’t intentionally walk Bottomley, and he took full advantage, lacing a single to right field for his sixth hit and 12th RBI.
In the pages of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat: “The Cardinals today brought heavy heartache to Brooklyn, when they came over the bridge and handed the Robins a terrific trimming. Jim Bottomley was the star of the pastime ... with six safeties out of as many chances at bat and walloped in 12 runs for his share of the afternoon.
"Outside of that, the Illinois lad was helpless.”
4. Stan Musial, May 2, 1954 (Game 1), vs. the New York Giants
Key stats: Hit three home runs and drove in six while adding two more homers in Game 2
To open a doubleheader against the Giants at Busch Stadium, Musial went 4--for-4 with three home runs and six RBIs. His game-winning, three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth capped the first time he had a three-homer game in the big leagues.
If Musial had ended the day at that, it would have been one of his best in his long career. And for this list, we are counting just Game 1 as his best single-game performance. But the best part about Musial’s production that day? It didn’t stop with Game 1. The all-time great went on to hit two more homers in the nightcap of the doubleheader, setting a record for most home runs in one day. In 1972, Nate Colbert equaled the feat for the Padres.
“I still can’t believe it,” Musial told Bob Broeg of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “You mean real sluggers like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ralph Kiner -- men like them -- never hit five homers in a doubleheader?”
5. Albert Pujols, July 20, 2004, vs. the Cubs
Key stats: Went 5-for-5 with four runs, three homers and five RBIs
Fourteen years to the day before Carpenter had his historic day at Wrigley Field, Pujols had a pretty great day himself. Facing the Cubs in Chicago, the Cardinals fell behind, 7-1. But they roared back to life for an 11-8 win, thanks in large part to Pujols.
The slugger delivered a hit all five times he came to bat and drove in five RBIs. His three home runs were capped by a two-run tiebreaker off LaTroy Hawkins in the ninth inning.
Honorable mention: Fernando Tatis, April 23, 1999, vs. the Dodgers
How could we not mention a game with two grand slams in the same inning? That’s what Tatis did for St. Louis in front of a packed Dodger Stadium in 1999. The father of current Padres star Fernando Tatis Jr. crushed a no-doubt slam to the back of the left-field bullpen in the third inning off Dodgers starter Chan Ho Park. Then, the floodgates opened, as the Cardinals batted around and Tatis again came to bat with the bases loaded. Los Angeles left Park in, and he hung a breaking ball, which Tatis promptly smacked into the seats beyond left-center field.
Nobody had hit two grand slams in the same inning before, nobody has done it since and it’s quite possible that it won’t happen again.
Anne Rogers covers the Cardinals for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @anne__rogers and on Facebook.