ST. LOUIS -- In order to dig their way out of their worst start to a season in 50 years, the Cardinals knew they would likely have to ride the production of a lineup thought to be one of their deepest in years.
On Thursday night, the Cardinals flexed that massive offensive muscle and knocked Dodgers ace Julio Urías out after just three innings with a long-ball barrage, ultimately hitting their most home runs in a game in 27 years.
“What I can tell you is -- and I've said it several times -- we've dug ourselves a hole and these guys are on a mission,” manager Oliver Marmol said of his team’s rally since dropping eight games in a row in early May. “Offensively, that showed today. The home runs help.”
It was the first time since July 12, 1996, against the Cubs at Wrigley Field, that the Cardinals hit seven home runs in a game. It also marked the franchise’s first seven-homer game in St. Louis since May 7, 1940, a game against the Brooklyn Dodgers.
“I’m always trying to find ways to keep the team going and it doesn’t matter what it takes,” said Contreras, who became just the second catcher in Cardinals history with two home runs and six RBIs in a game (joining Ted Simmons, who did it on Sept. 25, 1980, and June 11, 1979). “[The Dodgers] kind of came back, but our inning to win the game was still there. I’m glad that we had a nice answer there in the eighth.”
Contreras, Juan Yepez, Gorman and Paul DeJong all homered off Urías in the third inning -- the final three coming in back-to-back-to-back fashion. Nolan Arenado, who had his home run streak snapped at five games on Wednesday against Milwaukee, also crushed one on Thursday for the Cardinals, winners of nine of their past 11 games.
The Cardinals have scored 85 runs while also smashing 27 home runs in that span.
“You’ve got guys coming off the bench and stepping up, you’ve got all the starters clicking and it just shows how deep we can be,” said Gorman, whose third-inning home run off Urías was the first of his Major League career off a lefty. “Getting that opportunity [against a lefty], I’ve got to take advantage and show that I can be that everyday guy for this team and help them win.”
The two teams combined for nine home runs on Thursday night, breaking the previous Busch Stadium III record of seven set on April 15, 2016, between the Cardinals and Reds. Contreras added a second three-run home run in the eighth inning to break the game open again after Los Angeles had clawed to within one at 9-8 in the top of the seventh. That earned Contreras just the second “curtain call” of his career and his first since 2016 at Wrigley Field as a Cub.
“I couldn’t be happier about the way it went tonight, because that felt pretty special,” said Contreras, following the 13th multihomer game of his career. “I was still celebrating, still jamming around, saying some curse words. Then, somebody said, ‘Hey! They want you out there.’ I said, ‘Where?’ And they said, ‘For the curtain call.’ So, I said, ‘OK, let’s do it.’ I got really excited.”
The Cardinals' offense has averaged 7.7 runs per game during this 11-game renaissance that has gotten them back to within striking distance in the NL Central. Arenado, who has been one of the game’s hottest hitters in May following the worst start of his career in April, has an RBI in each of his past eight games (with six homers and 16 RBIs in that span).
“When you look at April, there were a lot of guys in the same spot and not feeling great about where they were offensively and thankfully, they stuck with it,” Marmol said. “The reality is they’re pretty darn good at [hitting]. Now, we’re seeing it all come together, they’re playing to their potential and swinging the bats well. This lineup can really do damage.”
The fiery Contreras likes to think that he has helped the usually reserved and staid Cardinals take on more of his personality. The team responded to his chest-thumping celebration following his first home run and the energy carried through the night.
“This year is kind of different because of myself,” Contreras said. “I’m all different and when I do something good, I try to pass it around and bring good energy. I’m [excitable], I play with my emotions, and I play with my [hair] on fire -- that’s not a secret. I think it makes me better.”