Big City bash: Adams adds to Cards' legendary homers
Slugger evokes memories of Clark, Smith with clutch clout off Kershaw
ST. LOUIS -- Matt Adams went crazy, folks.
The Cardinals first baseman couldn't help it Tuesday evening as he ran down the first-base line after hitting the biggest home run of his career, adding yet another large exclamation point to the decorated championship history book of this franchise.
The hulk of a man they call "Big City" had just swallowed Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw's two-run lead whole, belting a three-run homer in the seventh inning that would power the Cardinals to a 3-2 victory in Game 4 of the National League Division Series and clinch another appearance in the NL Championship Series, the team's fourth in a row.
Moments earlier, the Cardinals were trailing, 2-0, and had scratched out a grand total of one hit. Then Matt Holliday and Jhonny Peralta singled, Adams fouled off a 93-mph fastball and connected on a 73-mph pitch.
"It was a curveball that stayed up in the zone," Adams said. "Saw it pop up out of his hand and knew it was going to be a good one to swing at."
After the ball soared over the head of Dodgers right fielder Matt Kemp and landed in the Cardinals' bullpen, Adams jumped in the air. Twice. He didn't get his 6-foot-3, 260-pound body too far off the ground, but he said later that he felt like he never touched it the whole way around the bases.
And he wasn't the only one.
"I think I jumped with him in the dugout," St. Louis second baseman Kolten Wong said. "I took my helmet off, threw my bat down, and we were all just jumping. We lost it, pretty much."
Adams said he didn't know what he was doing in the moment. He said some people are already referring to his homer hop as the "Big City Leap."
"So maybe we'll be able to go ahead and patent that," he said.
One thing that can't be denied is that Adams' homer recalled other special baseball moments around these parts.
The left-handed homer against southpaw Kershaw brought to mind Jack Clark's right-handed blast to beat Dodgers righty Tom Niedenfuer in the pennant-winning Game 6 of the 1985 NLCS in Los Angeles.
It also brought to mind Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith's first career left-handed homer, also off Niedenfuer, for a walk-off piece in Game 5 of that same NLCS at Busch Stadium II. As Smith rounded the bases, St. Louis broadcasting legend Jack Buck screamed, "Go crazy, folks! Go crazy." The final score of that game? Also 3-2.
Adams and the Cardinals might not have seen the link between the historic hits, but they saw a player -- and a team -- coming up with huge homers this October, flipping the script from what they've done all season as the team with the least amount of long balls in the NL.
"You look at what these guys have been able to do, you take a Matt Adams and see his track record, and even though he didn't throw up huge power numbers this year, he has in the past and can," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "There's no reason to say that it's gone anywhere.
"As far as how they're taking the bats against lefties, I think they go through different periods of time where they're taking better at-bats than others against left-handed pitching. A lot of times it's how often are they allowed to stay in there. I've been pulling them a lot of times, not letting them start against the lefties, and they're not going to be as comfortable.
"So shame on me at times. But we're trying to keep everybody sharp. But when you keep throwing them in there, they're going to feel more comfortable, and I think it's paid off here for us recently."
Or, in the more succinct words of third baseman Matt Carpenter, who hit three homers in this series, all off lefties: "We have some pop on this team. It didn't really show up in the regular season, but we have some guys who can hit homers. But more importantly, we have guys who want to win. And in this kind of environment in the postseason, we have guys who are putting together quality at-bats. We were just fighting and trying to make something happen."
Adams hit 17 homers in 296 at-bats in his breakout season of 2013, and that number decreased to 15 this year despite the fact that he had 527 at-bats. He hit .190 with three homers in 121 at-bats against lefties in the 2014 regular season, slugging .298. Something had to change for October, and it did.
"It was no secret that I struggled throughout the season against lefties," Adams said. "And that's one thing going into the series, we knew that a couple of starters and a lot of guys in the bullpen were lefties.
"So I did a lot of work coming up to the series just hitting on the curveball machine down in the cage, and just trying to see the ball coming that way a little bit more."
Now the Cardinals are back, playing for a pennant just like they do every October these days. They had a cast of many heroes in this NLDS, but none bigger -- literally and figuratively, on the ground and ever-so-slightly above it -- than Big City.
In the interview room after the game, Cardinals starter Shelby Miller sat next to Adams and summed it up well.
"Our team, we just never give up," he said. "We're going to play to the very last out, no matter who the opponent is. ... It's a great team effort.
"And this big guy over here is the reason why we won today."