PITTSBURGH -- The Cardinals continued to heat up in one of the hotter months of the year with a 14-8 rout of the Pirates on Wednesday night at PNC Park. They earned their fourth series win of July, and this time, they left no doubts as they set some new marks.
Let’s break this blowout win down by the numbers:
Knizner had a large cheering contingent in Pittsburgh, where his father, Mike, grew up. The group of double-digit spectators found a reason to get loud as Knizner, the Cardinals’ No. 3 prospect per MLB Pipeline, hit his first career homer in the second inning, teeing off a Statcast-projected 414 feet to left field off Pirates starter Jordan Lyles.
“It was nice to hit that home run, but especially in front of all my family,” Knizner said.
Of course, it was crickets when he got into the dugout, where his teammates greeted him with the silent treatment.
“I thought that was probably going to happen,” he said.
The rookie has gotten the opportunity to show his skill set after Carson Kelly was traded to Arizona for Goldschmidt this offseason and Yadier Molina was placed on the injured list on July 8 with a right thumb tendon strain. Knizner is looking to jump on the opportunity, but on Wednesday, he was just looking to keep the offense going.
“Our plan is just to move the line,” he said. “You see guys having good at-bats in front of you, so it’s almost like ... I put a little pressure on myself, saying, ‘Hey, let’s go. Have a quality at-bat, get the next guy up.’”
The Cardinals’ duo of Pauls showed what happens when two top-notch bats get hot at the same time. Both Goldschmidt and DeJong swatted two-run home runs to fuel the lopsided second inning, marking pieces in larger stretches of success for each.
For Goldschmidt, it was his third rocket in a three-game span, coming after he struggled in Cincinnati (seven K’s in three games at the plate). The successful stretch ties his career-long streak of games with a home run, a feat he last accomplished with the D-backs on Aug. 27-30, 2017.
DeJong ended up matching Goldschmidt’s total over that time before the game ended. He connected on another two-run home run in the fourth inning, then clobbered a projected 420-foot rocket in the eighth inning, per Statcast measurement.
“It’s no surprise that as soon as Goldy starts popping homers, the team rallies around that,” said Adam Wainwright, who tossed a five-inning start. “But [DeJong’s] swing is so good, and when he’s seeing the ball [well] like he is right now, it’s so dangerous.”
8 (and 9)
St. Louis didn’t just bat around in the second inning -- they largely batted around the outfield fencing, too. In that frame, the Cardinals recorded eight extra-base hits, which tied a Major League record for the most in an inning; they’re one of just five teams to do so.
The nine-run second was also the second inning in the past week in which the Cardinals have put up nine or more runs (10 vs. the Reds on Friday). They didn’t record a single inning with as many runs last season, but an uptick in power and quality of at-bats has allowed them to put up lopsided numbers.
“We talk about damage, whether homers or doubles or just balls hit hard. That’s what we’re looking for, is the hard-hit, consistent contact,” manager Mike Shildt said. “Clearly, that’s where the game is -- the modern game. We’re not selling out for homers, but we are looking to drive the ball and stay within ourselves to put good swings on it.”
With 10 wins in their past 13 games, the Cardinals are rocketing up the National League Central table. Extreme offense doesn’t give a team any extra credit in the standings, but the big numbers are putting pressure on the first-place Cubs, who hold just a half-game lead over St. Louis with less than a week to go before the Trade Deadline.
“We’re playing great as a group,” DeJong said. “We’ve got a great energy every day. We started the second half [knowing] we were right there in the division. So for us, winning series is huge. The Cubs and Brewers are right there, too, and they’re going to have to play each other soon.
“It’s just about winning series constantly, and by the end of September, we should be in a good spot.”