Pagés' first MLB hit a big one in Cardinals' victory

May 15th, 2024

ANAHEIM -- In the aftermath of Willson Conteras’ fractured forearm that will keep him out for six to eight weeks, catcher figures to play an important role for the Cardinals over the coming weeks as the backup to Iván Herrera.

On Tuesday, Pagés had his first signature moment in the big leagues. With two outs, two strikes and the bases loaded in the third inning, Pagés unloaded the bases for a double, his first career hit. In the process, Pagés gave St. Louis a five-run lead and became the first Cardinals player to have three or more RBIs on their first career hit since Mark Worrell on June 5, 2008, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

For a player who’s had a whirlwind of a start to his season, Pagés picked an opportune time to record his first career hit and put the Cardinals in a position to win. Pagés’ big hit was the difference in the Cardinals' 7-6 victory in Anaheim, giving St. Louis three straight wins for the second time this season.

“Pagés did an incredible job. The double was fun to see. The dugout loved that one,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “But navigating that [Angels] lineup, the different arms we used today. He blocked a ton -- and some really tough pitches, too -- in some key moments. He did an absolutely phenomenal job tonight.”

Pagés started the season as a third catcher for the Cardinals but played sparingly (four plate appearances) before he was optioned on May 5. Three days later, Pagés was recalled following the Contreras injury and is now entrusted in an extended role that could last for the next few months.

“Every day since I started playing baseball, I wanted to be a big leaguer,” Pagés said about his big game. “Now I’m officially in the books with that hit. I just have to keep working but I’m super happy at this moment and trying to take it in.”

MLB Pipeline’s No. 15 Cardinals prospect, Pagés entered the season in a tough position as a talented young catcher but blocked behind a veteran star in Contreras and another good youngster in Herrera. Now, the 25-year-old Pagés has a chance to build on his successful game on Tuesday and give the Cardinals enviable catching depth for the foreseeable future.

“It’s been a lot of emotions [the last few weeks] going up and down. You obviously want to be up here to help this team win but I understand my role,” Pagés said. “Now I’m here for a bit with the injury to Willson. So it’s doing everything I can to help this team win and that’s all that matters.”

When Pagés cleared the bases, the Cardinals were in pretty good shape with their ace Sonny Gray on the mound. However, Gray scuffled for the second straight outing, allowing five runs and a home run in six innings. After allowing six runs and three homers his last time out against the Brewers, Gray has now allowed five or more earned runs in consecutive games for just the ninth time in his career.

“I just gave up the homer again. That’s just something I’ve been so good at in the past that I need to get better at,” Gray said after his outing. “The offense picked us up tonight and that was huge. Win the first two games here, win the series and a chance to sweep tomorrow. That was a big win.”

For Gray -- an established frontline starter with a decorated track record -- this is just a blip on the radar. After all, Gray still boasts a 3.05 ERA and 53 strikeouts in seven starts this season. His struggles have just been more pronounced as the Cardinals try to navigate their way back into contention.

Luckily, Gray had plenty of offensive support beyond the big hit from Pagés. Alec Burleson finished a triple shy of the cycle and had the decisive two-run home run in the seventh inning that put the Cardinals back in front. After recording a three-hit game with a homer last Tuesday against the Mets, Burleson did so again a week later in Anaheim.

After consecutive comeback wins of three runs or greater on Sunday and Monday, the Cardinals won in different fashion Tuesday. Regardless of how they accomplished the win, the Cardinals have improved to an 18-24 record and have a chance to sweep the series on Wednesday and extend their winning streak to a season-high four games.