Cards boast 30-HR trio as win streak hits 13

September 24th, 2021

CHICAGO -- saw hit his 30th home run of the season in the Cards' 8-5 win over the Cubs on Friday afternoon in Game 1 of a split doubleheader. Goldschmidt lofted a third-inning shot halfway up the bleachers in center field, and O'Neill wanted to join in on the fun. So the Cardinals' left fielder merely hammered his own blast in the fifth inning -- a gargantuan Statcast-projected 454-foot shot that left Wrigley Field on the fly -- to join Goldschmidt; each has 30 homers on the year thanks to a two-run homer on the afternoon.

Waiting for them at the 30-homer plateau was Nolan Arenado. Only one other trio has accomplished such a feat in franchise history: The “MV3” of Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen in 2004.

“That’s a heck of an accomplishment,” said manager Mike Shildt. “Those three guys, there's a reason why we're doing what we're doing -- a lot of reasons, actually -- but those three are big ones.”

The homers -- which also included ’s pinch-hit two-run blast -- were powerful on a micro level, but they were more important for what they resulted in: The Cardinals’ win streak grew to 13 games despite some missteps in the sixth, a potent message to send as they embarked on their final road series of the season.

The victory in the macro gave St. Louis breathing room as it looks to lock up the second National League Wild Card spot, its magic number over the Phillies trimmed to five with 10 games left. What’s more, the Cards are one off the franchise mark of 14 straight wins set by the 1935 club.

“We're aware of that, for sure, but at the same time we're trying to win every game we can,” said , whose bases-loaded escape in the fourth inning came between homers by Goldschmidt and Rondón.

“You still feel that -- not pressure, but that need to go out and perform and focus. We’ve been in a good spot to do that.”

Central to this winning streak -- one that has catapulted the Cardinals from Wild Card hopefuls to the team to beat -- have been O’Neill and Goldschmidt. Each arrived at his 30th home run in a vastly different manner, O’Neill for the first time in his career and Goldschmidt for the sixth as he makes a late-season MVP push.

But there's no secret to how they've gotten here while hitting ahead of Arenado, who laced No. 30 on Sept. 11, the first day of this win streak.

“They're feeding off each other,” Shildt said. “I mean, there's nowhere to go with those guys.”

O’Neill’s resurgence has really been an awakening, a full encapsulation of the player the Cardinals have longed to see since they acquired him from the Mariners at the 2017 Trade Deadline, with an unrivaled combination of speed and power at his disposal.

O’Neill has seldom been as hot as he has been of late, with nine homers and an OPS of 1.039 in September. That can also be attributed to his placement in the lineup; the Cardinals are 20-7 since he was entrenched as the No. 3 hitter between Goldschmidt and Arenado on Aug. 27.

What’s more, O’Neill’s blast was his seventh of the season of at least 450 feet, moving past the Angels' Shohei Ohtani and the Royals' Salvador Perez and now sitting atop the list with C.J. Cron of the Rockies.

And now, a nightcap against Cubs right-hander Zach Davies, 5.49 ERA in tow, will give the bashing Cardinals the chance to match the legendary Gashouse Gang’s record from 1935 -- and increase their chances to leave Chicago on Sunday night with a Wild Card berth in hand.