Arenado breaks through with a big blast, powers Cards to victory

May 29th, 2024

CINCINNATI -- A famous tinkerer when it comes to his approach at the plate, and someone who admittedly obsesses over every detail of his swing, Cardinals third baseman has caught himself mimicking his stance on the team plane, inside mirrored elevators or even while out to dinner with his wife and young daughter.

Arenado admits that he can be his own worst enemy with how he changes up his hitting form over the course of a game or a season, as well as with how he overthinks slumps. However, in a similar vein, those are some of the same characteristics “that make him great,” manager Oliver Marmol said prior to the Cardinals’ 7-1 win over the Reds at Great American Ball Park on Tuesday night.

A night after sharing that his “swing is not good” and that he doesn’t “know what the answers are,” Arenado ended an 11-game home-run drought with a 390-foot two-run blast to help power the Cardinals. The homer, Arenado’s fourth of the season, came off Cincinnati’s Andrew Abbott and was his first against a left-handed pitcher in 111 plate appearances, dating to July 18, 2023, when he hit a walk-off long ball against Miami lefty A.J. Puk.

“That felt great. And thank God, because it’s been a grind,” said Arenado. “I’ve been working in the cage, and I feel like today there was a lot of good work in there and it was good to see it come to fruition. I was able to hit a ball hard against a good pitcher, so I was very happy about that.”

Arenado’s blast was a big part of a win where the Cards got contributions from various parts of the roster. Nolan Gorman hit a two-run home run -- his first in Cincinnati -- and opened his start with five no-hit innings as the Cardinals won for the 11th time in their past 14 games.

drilled a one-hop double off the left-center-field wall in the third inning to extend his hitting streak to 17 games. It tied the 22-year-old Wynn with close friend Jordan Walker (2023) and legendary slugger Albert Pujols (2001) for the second-longest hitting streak by a rookie in franchise history. Joe McEwing holds that mark with a streak of 25 straight games in 1999.

“It feels great, but that’s a hard category to put me in with [Pujols], so just being up there on that list is pretty cool,” said Winn, who is 22-for-64 (.344) during the 17-game spree. “And being up there with J. Walk is also amazing, and I’m sure I’ll talk to him tonight about it.”

Arenado did plenty of talking about his season-long struggles following a 0-for-4 outing in Monday’s 3-1 loss, pointing out that he hasn’t been able to pull balls in the air as he has so often in his career. Sounding almost as if his confidence had been shattered, Arenado admitted that he must do a better job at not overthinking things when he is slumping.

“I think it helps and it hurts -- it’s probably my Kryptonite, as the coaches tell me sometimes,” Arenado said. “I know I’m not going to have a good game every day, but I expect myself to compete. The thing that has been frustrating is that I feel like my work hasn’t been great or the way it should be. Today, I made sure my work was tip-top, and I’m thankful for the hitting coaches helping me.”

Marmol said that Arenado was destined to rediscover his stroke because of just how much he cares about winning and producing for his teammates. The third-year manager has continued to try and pour trust into Arenado as he’s struggled.

“[Arenado] is one of the best players in the big leagues. He’s one of the most feared in that [batter’s] box, and by the time this [slump] is done, it will be no different,” Marmol insisted. “I trust him a ton, and he’s going to come out of this and prove a lot of people wrong.”

Arenado, who hit at least 30 home runs and drove in 100 runs for seven straight seasons from 2015-22 (excluding the COVID-shortened 2020), said he focused his whole career on trying to “backspin” balls into the seats for home runs. Never before has he had to think as much about his mechanics, a symbol of his new reality as a 33-year-old slugger.

“For my whole career, I’ve never thought about some of these things, and now I have to think about them,” he said. “Today, I wasn’t worrying about the flight of the ball, and I was focusing on my move. When you do something your whole career and you have to change it, that’s not easy. I’ve got to be smart about it and take it seriously.”