Walker, Winn show potential to be Cards' dynamic duo

August 31st, 2023

This story was excerpted from John Denton’s Cardinals Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

For the time being, the Cardinals' back-to-back walk-off wins against the Padres on Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon will be remembered for Tommy Edman’s absolutely clutch hitting against All-Star closer Josh Hader.

Someday down the line, however, the stirring victories will likely be pointed to as the moment twin 21-year-old rookies, and , first started showing their enormous potential as a dynamic duo.

On Tuesday, when Edman closed the win with a walk-off single against Hader in the bottom of the 10th inning, Walker had an early hit and an RBI. As for Winn, he snapped a 0-for-10 skid with a third-inning single and then made the defensive play of the game in the top of the 10th.

Showing off his tremendous defensive range, Winn dove deep in the hole at shortstop and kept Matthew Batten’s single on the infield -- something that prevented Xander Bogaerts from scoring and the Padres from taking the lead. In the next half-inning, Winn scored the game-winning run after Edman’s hit.

On Wednesday, when Edman eventually won it with a walk-off homer, Walker and Winn exquisitely set the stage. Walker not only authored the first four-hit game of his career, but he smashed a 431-foot three-run homer after the Cardinals had fallen behind 3-0. In the bottom of the ninth, with the Cardinals down to their final strike, Winn laced a liner to left and hustled his way to a double that set up Edman for the winner.

The connective tissue between the two rookies for the ninth-inning heroics: The 5-foot-11 180-pound Winn used the 6-foot-6 245-pound Walker’s longer and heavier bat for the game-extending double.

“Thankfully Jordan Walker let me use his bat for that AB, and I think it had a little bit of magic in it,” said Winn, who used Walker’s 34-ounce, 32-inch Louisville Slugger instead of his 33 1/2-ounce, 31-inch bat. “I’ve been struggling, and I saw [Walker] get four knocks. I just walked up to him and said, ‘Hey man, mine’s not working; let me see if yours has more hits,' and sure enough it did.”

Walker (first round) and Winn (second) were picked out of high school together by the Cardinals in the 2020 MLB Draft. They progressed together through rookie ball and Single-A and were even roommates at Double-A Springfield. This season was the first time they were separated for an extended period with Walker making the Cards’ Opening Day roster and Winn starting at Triple-A. But their bond remained strong, thanks to playing video games online near-daily. Their game of choice: NBA 2K, where Walker, ironically, plays as the playmaking point guard and Winn is the bruising big man.

“We’re just so comfortable around each other,” Walker said of Winn. “We know what to tell each other when things aren’t going well, and we know what to say when things are going good. Masyn has that good equilibrium with telling me what I need to hear and then knowing when to back off. … It’s just nice to have him here and have eyes on me.”

Winn is still eyeing the day when he gets fully acclimated to MLB pitching and the loads of off-speed pitches he’s been force-fed. In nearly two weeks in the Majors, he’s just 7-for-41 (.171) with two extra-base hits. For now, he’s content to contribute however he can, marvel at Walker’s exploits and hope to find his groove soon enough to form a dynamic duo with his best friend.

“What Jordan just did today was unbelievable with the four knocks, and his [home run] bomb was something impressive because it was super majestic,” Winn said. “It’s super exciting for us. I’m hoping him and I can do some big things here.”