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Hicks brings the heat back to St. Louis

21-year-old reliever makes history with two 105-mph fastballs
MLB.com @MikeLupica

A lot happened in baseball on Sunday, all over the map. Shohei Ohtani won again, and struck out nine more batters for the Angels. The Braves scored six in the bottom of the ninth to beat the Marlins. Mookie Betts continued to lead the league in everything except points per game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. But something else happened in baseball, which still makes us think that on any one trip to the ballpark we might see something we've never seen before:

Jordan Hicks of the Cardinals happened.

A lot happened in baseball on Sunday, all over the map. Shohei Ohtani won again, and struck out nine more batters for the Angels. The Braves scored six in the bottom of the ninth to beat the Marlins. Mookie Betts continued to lead the league in everything except points per game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. But something else happened in baseball, which still makes us think that on any one trip to the ballpark we might see something we've never seen before:

Jordan Hicks of the Cardinals happened.

Hicks hits 105 mph -- twice -- on radar gun

Hicks is just 21, and a relief pitcher, and everybody knew he could throw hard before he came into the Cardinals-Phillies game in the eighth inning Sunday afternoon. But maybe not how hard. Only once before had a pitcher -- Aroldis Chapman -- ever thrown a baseball that was clocked at 105 mph. Hicks did it twice against Odubel Herrera, in the same at-bat. The dizzying sequence, especially for Herrera but for everybody else in the ballpark, went like this:

104 mph.
105 mph.
104 mph.
105 mph.
103 mph.

Those just happened to be the five fastest pitches thrown in the big leagues this season. In the 1 1/3 innings that Hicks pitched as he closed out a 5-1 victory for the Cardinals, he threw 13 pitches that clocked out at 100 mph or more. And because this is the modern world, one in which you can have the whole baseball world in your phone and in the palm of your hand, it didn't take long for everybody to know what was happening in St. Louis on Sunday afternoon. And that Hicks had just happened.

"With modern technology," John Mozeliak, the Cardinals president of baseball operations, said on Monday morning, "Let's just say word spread a little faster than when Paul Revere rode his horse. So it didn't take very long for a hot pitcher to become a very hot topic."

I asked Mozeliak what it was like in the ballpark as it was happening, particularly after Hicks had thrown two pitches at 105 mph.

"A lot of it is a blur, like the pitches," Mozeliak said. "I recall at one point during the whole sequence he threw a first-pitch slider to somebody that was clocked at 89 and a moan actually ran through the crowd, like, Oooh, that's too bad. And I also recall wondering if what was happening was so unusual that perhaps people didn't realize exactly how unusual.

"I'd never attempt to speak for 45,000 fans, but one of my first thoughts was: Has this ever been done before?"

Mozeliak went right to Google. He found out that Hicks' first pitch at 105 had tied Chapman for the fastest in the 10 years that baseball has been measuring verifiable pitch speeds.

"I turned to our group and said, 'OK, only two pitchers have ever reached that velocity,'" Mozeliak said. "I believe my next statement was, 'What does that make 95?'"

Then, Mozeliak was talking about how we all really do still go to the ballpark, every single time, hoping to see something that we've never seen before, whether it's a catch to remember or a crazy comeback like the Braves had against the Marlins or a tape-measure home run or a series of pitches from a young relief pitcher.

"What I remember from the whole, long moment is the electricity of it," Mozeliak said. "Whenever you see a player or a pitcher do something like that, you feel as if you're breathing rarefied air. And of course now the challenge for young Mr. Hicks will be harnessing this incredible tool."

It will be big fun to watch him try. What has been interesting for Hicks, just so far, is that he has not been putting big strikeouts into the books to go with big velocity. In the 22 innings he's pitched, he only has nine strikeouts to go with 16 walks. But he also has a 2-1 record, and he has an ERA of 2.05. And if he can keep throwing this hard and this well, he clearly will change the game and the prospects for the '18 Cardinals.

"I went to dinner after the game with Tim McCarver [who still works some Cardinals games on TV]," Mozeliak said. "And we were talking about where we put something like we'd just seen. But maybe the best way to describe it is this: It was baseball. It was why we care and why we watch. It was the fun of being a fan."

"And," he continued, "good for us, because now fans are going to want to watch this kid."

A lot happened Sunday. Hicks sure did. Ohtani has been the hot kid this season. Not as hot as Hicks was in St. Louis.

Mike Lupica is a columnist for MLB.com. He also writes for the New York Daily News.

St. Louis Cardinals, Jordan Hicks