PHILADELPHIA -- After hitting for the cycle Friday, jump-starting a historic four-home run stretch Saturday for the Cardinals and later winning the game with a ninth-inning long ball, superstar Nolan Arenado barely had time to absorb those momentous moments before he was asked what he had left for a Sunday encore.
“I don’t know,” a sweat-soaked Arenado said while letting out a big, cleansing sigh. “It’s [ESPN’s] Sunday Night Baseball, and all I know is I’m happy I’ll get to sleep in.”
Arenado should sleep quite well after delivering a jaw-dropping two-night stretch rarely ever seen by a player in Major League Baseball history. A night after being unable to fully enjoy the second cycle of his career as his Cardinals squandered a three-run lead in a loss, Arenado ensured St. Louis would savor a 7-6 defeat of the Phillies on Saturday at Citizens Bank Park.
Arenado had the first of four straight Cardinals home runs in the first inning -- followed by rookies Nolan Gorman and Juan Yepez and Dylan Carlson’s mammoth, Statcast-projected 407-foot blast. When the Cardinals saw that 5-0 edge evaporate -- and later a 6-5 lead disappear -- Arenado made the 5,000th at-bat of his MLB career one to remember. He led off the ninth inning by drilling a hanging slider 365 feet to seal the 22nd multihomer game of his career.
“The one to win the game,” Arenado said when asked which home run he liked most. “Whatever gets us a [win], that’s it. Obviously, being a part of the four in a row was pretty cool, but whatever gets us a win is all that matters to me.”
When the Cardinals hit four home runs in a row it was just the 11th time in NL/AL history that feat had been accomplished, and it was the first time in the rich history of the franchise. It was the first time in MLB history that a team has accomplished that feat in the first inning of a game -- doing it off shell-shocked Philadelphia starter Kyle Gibson. Arenado’s first homer left the bat at 106.3 mph, while Gorman (105.8 mph) and Carlson (107 mph) hit balls that traveled 392 and 407 feet, respectively. Yepez’s 10th home run was pulled down the left-field line and cleared the 334-foot sign by 19 feet.
“That was super fun, and they all came with two outs,” marveled Gorman. “[Goldschmidt] getting on with two outs got it started, and then Arenado just did what he does. To be able to continue that line, it was so much fun.”
Yepez, the rookie who spent years in the Minors before getting to MLB and showing off his massive power, challenged Carlson to keep the streak going and extend it to four straight home runs.
“Yeppy is always having fun out there, so I’m sure he mentioned something [about a fourth home run], but I was getting locked in and ready to roll,” Carlson said. “That was really exciting, and it’s something that will always be remembered.”
Added Yepez, who grew up in Venezuela dreaming of playing Major League Baseball: “I remember when I was maybe 11 or 12 and watching the Red Sox when Manny Ramirez, J.D. Drew, Jason Varitek and Mike Lowell did it, and now to be a part of that history, it’s pretty cool.”
Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol thought it was pretty cool that he got to celebrate his 36th birthday on a night when St. Louis earned a spot in the MLB record books.
“That was incredible and fun to sit there and watch that,” said Marmol, who was as happy about the relief work from Jordan Hicks (18 pitches at 100-plus mph) and Ryan Helsley (five strikeouts of the seven batters faced). “Guys took some good swings, they were on the attack and put up some good swings. That was huge.”
No performance was more huge than the one delivered by Arenado, who started the home run binge in the first inning and closed it in the ninth. A night earlier, Arenado tripled, homered, doubled and singled in four at-bats for the second cycle of his career. However, his defensive error played a role in the Cardinals blowing a 3-0 lead and losing 5-3. There were no such missteps Saturday.
“A day like today, it’s hard to sit back and think about [the cycle and starting the homers] because we’ve got to get ready for a game tomorrow,” Arenado said. “But those moments are special, and I’m thankful for them. And I’m thankful to play with good players, too, because you aren’t going to do this without good players.”