Baker's 1st HR ball takes wild path to Cards' dugout

August 27th, 2023

PHILADELPHIA -- Designated hitter was the lone bright spot for the Cardinals in their 12-1 loss to the Phillies on Saturday night at Citizens Bank Park.

Baker, ranked the No. 19 prospect in the Cardinals system according to MLB Pipeline, is in his third stint with the big league club this season and he was the one who gave the team a 1-0 lead in the third inning against right-hander Zack Wheeler. The Phillies ace was dealing in the early going, striking out six of the first seven hitters he faced.

Then, Baker came to the plate and worked the count to 1-1 before hitting his first Major League home run over the left-field wall.

“I was trying to be on a fastball and hit a mistake,” Baker said. “He didn’t make a whole lot of mistakes tonight. Fortunately, I didn’t miss that one he gave me.

“It’s a monkey off the back, for sure. I feel like I’ve taken a few at-bats [in the past], trying a little too hard to get that first [homer]. I know better than that. I know that’s not really how it works. It’s a really good feeling. It feels like when you get the first hit out of the way.”

At first, the young girl who caught the ball in the left-field stands was reluctant to give in to the crowd calling for her to throw the ball back -- as is customary when a visiting player homers in Philadelphia -- but she eventually tossed it back on the field. At that point, the Phillies’ ballgirl retrieved it and, with the Cardinals' dugout signaling frantically for the ball, she delivered the souvenir.

“In all honesty, today was the first day I didn’t try to do too much,” Baker said. “I was trying to put a good at-bat and was able to get a good thing out of it.”

Baker is planning on keeping the ball. He and his wife recently closed on a new house, so expect the ball to be in their new home.

“It’s going in a room somewhere,” Baker said.

Baker was having a great year before his most recent callup from Triple-A Memphis on Aug. 12. He led all International Leaguers in home runs (33) and total bases (226), while ranking second in RBIs (98).

“I’m getting good pitches to hit. I’m swinging at less crap,” Baker said. “I’m trying to hit them hard. Keeping that approach has made me successful this year.”

Other than Baker’s home run, it was a bad night for St. Louis. Right-hander Dakota Hudson was on a roll during the month of August, winning all four of his starts with a respectable 3.75 ERA. But his luck ran out against Philadelphia.     

Hudson gave the Cardinals length by going 5 2/3 innings, but the outing was never easy. He had four walks in the first three innings and the Phillies broke through in the third with a pair of runs. Bryce Harper highlighted the scoring with an RBI single.

By the time Hudson left the game, he had allowed five runs on six hits and five walks. It didn’t help that his slider was ineffective.   

“I was not challenging enough,” Hudson said. “I kind of went out there with fastballs. I had to move the ball around. … I just wanted a piece of [the Phillies]. I got a little bit big and outside myself. That took me off my game a little bit.”