Hicks shows grit in sealing first big league win

Cards rookie throws 2 1/3 scoreless innings to finish off Reds

April 21st, 2018

ST. LOUIS -- Your first Major League win is supposed to be one you remember most, long after your career is through, the details etched in your mind and immune to the cruelty of time.

But just minutes after ' first big league win, which he earned -- capital E -- by closing out St. Louis' 4-3 win over the Reds on Saturday, the rookie already could barely recall.

"I think I blacked out a little bit," said Hicks, who completed 2 1/3 scoreless innings by wiggling out of a tense, traffic-heavy ninth.

Asked when he woke up, Hicks said: "When we were shaking hands."

Somewhere in between, the 21-year-old rookie showed why the Cardinals already trust him in the most high-leverage spots. His triple-digit stuff with run is no longer a secret, not after three weeks of hapless swings and Statcast™ readings. His demeanor is garnering a reputation as well, eliciting adjectives every late-inning arm wants to be associated with. Fearless. Trustworthy. The guy the manager opts to win or lose with, which is exactly what Cardinals skipper Mike Matheny did with Hicks on Saturday, while Greg Holland barely stirred in the bullpen.

"It was his [Hicks'] game," Matheny said. "That's a tough spot to toss Holland into as we try to slow play this."

With closer unavailable after throwing 29 pitches the night before, Matheny allowed Hicks to finish the ninth, an equation churning in his mind.

A starter in the Minor Leagues until this season, Hicks has the ability to throw multiple innings, even while his stuff and velocity profiles more for a one-inning role. 

Hicks was summoned after allowed a game-tying single in the seventh to left-handed-hitting Scooter Gennett. Hicks immediately escaped further damage and then breezed through the eighth, before escaping trouble of his own creation in the ninth.

Pitching with a one-run lead courtesy of a home run, Hicks hit a batter and walked two more, loading the bases for Gennett with one out. He had nearly ended the game a batter before, when Joey Votto worked a walk by taking several close two-strike pitches, all registering near triple-digits.

"There were a couple pitches on Votto [that were close]," Matheny said. "I don't think he really cares who is up there. For the most part, he trusts his stuff. Any pitch he's throwing, he has confidence it's going to work out."

Two 98-mph sinkers later, it did, when Gennett bounced into a 6-4-3 double play.

Hicks planned to celebrate his first career victory over dinner with his parents, Jason and Jennifer, who visited from Houston to see their son pitch in the Majors for the first time. Maybe they'll fill in the blanks for him.

"When I'm out there I'm just in the moment," Hicks said. "It's not like I don't remember anything, I just try to stay in that moment and do my job."