Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

Back in leadoff, Fowler fuels playoff push

Outfielder homers vs. Rox, leads Cardinals with 15 RBIs in August
@anne__rogers
August 22, 2019

ST. LOUIS -- Yadier Molina knew Dexter Fowler was about to hit a home run before even Fowler -- or anyone else at Busch Stadium on Thursday night -- knew. In the bottom of the seventh inning, right as Rockies reliever Yency Almonte released his pitch, Molina shot both hands

ST. LOUIS -- Yadier Molina knew Dexter Fowler was about to hit a home run before even Fowler -- or anyone else at Busch Stadium on Thursday night -- knew.

In the bottom of the seventh inning, right as Rockies reliever Yency Almonte released his pitch, Molina shot both hands in the air as he perched in the dugout.

Fowler responded with a two-run, game-winning homer in the Cardinals’ 6-5 win.

Box score

“I knew it,” Molina said. “I have confidence in Dex. He’s been swinging the bat pretty good, and for some reason I knew.”

Molina went to Cardinals manager Mike Shildt in the dugout after the home run and told him about his crystal ball moment.

“He was like, ‘I had my hands up,’” Shildt said. “And I was like, ‘You had your hands up?’ And he goes, ‘Yeah, I knew he was going to hit a homer.’ That’s Yadi, he’s got an intuition unparalleled.”

Fowler -- who was drafted by the Rockies and played six seasons in Colorado -- seemed destined for the home run after the at-bats he had throughout Thursday’s game. In the third and fourth innings, the Cardinals' right fielder hit two deep balls to the warning track in center field. He thought both of them might be home runs in another park.

But a piece of advice from Paul Goldschmidt helped in the seventh, and, after Matt Carpenter drew a pinch-hit walk to put the go-ahead run at the plate, Fowler hit a 2-0 fastball that the Rockies' outfield couldn’t catch.

“I didn’t think [the ball] was jumping at all,” Fowler said. "I hit two balls on the nose and came out with nothing, to the track. The next at-bat, Goldy said, ‘Hey, try to pull the ball.’ So that’s what I did.”

Fowler has knocked in an RBI in four straight games, which is one shy of his career high (five in 2017). He also leads the Cardinals with 15 RBIs in August -- and 13 of those have come in the leadoff spot. He has a .382 OBP in August, second only to Kolten Wong (.422), who has moved into the second spot in the lineup the past two games.

“I think it’s just back in the leadoff spot, that’s where I’ve been my whole career, so there’s familiarity there,” Fowler said. “Situation is there. The guys have been getting on base, and I’ve been in the right situation at the right time.”

After searching all season, the Cardinals have found the consistency they’ve been looking for in that leadoff spot with Fowler.

It’s allowed the middle of the lineup to find production as well; Marcell Ozuna and Paul DeJong both hit their 23rd home run of the season Thursday night, with Ozuna tying the game in the fourth and breaking an 11-game streak without a home run. DeJong -- who hit his second home run of the homestand -- pulled the Cardinals within one in the sixth after Nolan Arenado hit a three-run home run off of Cardinals starter Miles Mikolas.

“[Third base coach Pop Warner] and I were talking, just a nice win," Shildt said. “Resilient win. Arenado hits the three-run homer, and it was just like, ‘OK, we’re going to come back.’ Ozuna tied it. … Pauly, nice stroke. Then Dex, nice swipe for what turned out to be the game-winner. Just a really nice, hard-fought, resilient team effort.

The power from Ozuna, DeJong and Fowler kept the Cardinals just a half-game back from the National League Central-leading Cubs. And all three everyday players seem to be hitting their stride as the Cardinals fight for offensive consistency and to stay in the division race.

“[The offense has] bailed me out a few times these last couple of weeks,” said Mikolas, who gave up five runs in six innings. “It’s a team game. I think I said it at the beginning of the year, there will be times when our pitching is real good and we pick up the hitters, and there will be times where pitchers struggle and our hitters pick it up. That’s what good baseball teams do, we pick each other up. I’m out there battling, they know that, they’ve got my back.”

Anne Rogers covers the Cardinals for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @anne__rogers and on Facebook.