PHILADELPHIA -- The first time Nolan Arenado hit for the cycle, he was a member of the Rockies, and he blasted a walk-off, game-winning three-run home run on Father’s Day in 2017 to elicit “M-V-P” chants and a celebratory mob at home.
On Friday, Arenado once again hit for the cycle, only this time his emotions couldn’t have been more opposite. Not only did the Cardinals lose on Friday -- 5-3 to the Phillies -- but Arenado’s famed glove at third base was a primary culprit in one of St. Louis’ ugliest defeats.
Arenado, a nine-time Gold Glover, botched a ground ball to open the fifth -- one that led to three Phillies runs and allowed them to wipe out a 3-0 St. Louis lead. The Phillies later added two solo home runs to grab the victory. Arenado did what he could to keep the Cardinals in it, tripling, homering, and doubling in his first three at-bats. He recorded the second cycle of his career in the eighth when Philadelphia third baseman Matt Vierling couldn’t field his hard chopper.
Arenado got cheers from infamous Philly fans known for being hard on opposing players, and he even ended up with the ball that secured the cycle (more on the ball later). However, it’s the victory Arenado would have rather had.
“It’s a little weird -- I’ll enjoy it when I get up to my [hotel] room and I call my mom -- but we want to win ball games. I’d rather win,” said Arenado. “It was cool to see Phillies fans clapping for me down the third-base line. They’re pretty passionate about their team, so to have them applaud is cool. I wasn’t expecting that, so that was nice.”
The Cardinals have had 17 cycles in their history, and they have gone 11-5-1 in those games. The last time they lost when one of their players registered a cycle was 1996, when John Mabry hit for the cycle in Colorado, according to MLB Stats and Research.
Arenado’s cycle was one of the few bright spots for the Cardinals on a night when they blew a 3-0 lead, committed two errors, had a runner picked off and struck out a season-worst 15 times. St. Louis is beginning a stretch of 14 consecutive games against teams with winning records, and manager Oliver Marmol sees the stretch as a litmus test.
“We’re able to show we belong,” Marmol said. “I look forward to these stretches, honestly. These are the teams I know are good. … These are the teams you have to beat to get to where we want to be.”
Arenado helped stake the Cardinals to a 3-0 lead when he tripled home Paul Goldschmidt in the first and then drilled a two-run homer in the third inning. When he doubled to open the sixth, Arenado thought he had a legitimate shot at notching another cycle.
Said Arenado: “Not to be arrogant, but I feel like I got the hard part out of the way early with the triple because I’m not fast.”
Because the Cardinals mustered so little offense, Arenado batted only four times. Knowing he needed a single for the cycle, Arenado pounded a ball to third and had no idea that it had been mishandled by Vierling, who also threw wildly.
Said Arenado: “I knew I had hit it hard, and I didn’t know how they were going to score it and I went on to second. However they scored it, I was going to be OK with it.”
The ball that secured Arenado’s cycle ended up in the hands of a ball person, who threw it to a young fan. Security at Citizens Bank Park saw that scene play out and helped retrieve the keepsake ball for Arenado. Ultimately, he sent a ball back to the fan with an autograph and a personalized message.
“I appreciate security and everyone making the move to help get that ball,” he said. “I signed a ball for [the fan]. If she is watching -- and I don’t think she is -- thank you for giving the ball back. I know it’s fun for [fans] getting a baseball, so I appreciate her giving it back.”
The play Arenado wishes he could have back was the chopper he booted for his seventh error of the season. If it wasn’t for that play, Arenado said, his cycle might have come in a Cardinals victory.
“That was not good, and I messed up there,” he said. “I’ve got to make that play. I feel like if I make that play, it’s a different game. It hopped up on me, but I’ve got to make that play.”