Gorman's strong HR total grows, but Cards flustered by Bucs

June 4th, 2023

PITTSBURGH -- Still a relative newcomer to MLB despite becoming a key cog on a team full of established stars, Nolan Gorman said it simply doesn’t add up that the Cardinals have struggled as much as they have with as much talent they have in their clubhouse.

The 23-year-old Gorman, the Cardinals’ most dynamic slugger this season, knows that the breaks of baseball aren’t always fair after what he went through in 2022 -- bursting on the scene and hitting 14 home runs as a rookie only to be demoted to the Minor Leagues late in the year following a stretch of struggles. This season, Gorman has already mashed 14 home runs -- in 36 fewer games -- but for a variety of reasons, it’s yet to translate into much sustained success for the Cardinals, who lost, 4-3, to the Pirates on Saturday at PNC Park, dropping them 6 1/2 games back in the NL Central and six games behind of Pittsburgh.

“This game is tough,” admitted Gorman, who smashed a two-run home run in the eighth inning to draw the Cardinals within a run. “It's a long season. We've got, obviously, a really good team in here, and you can name how many [future] Hall of Famers? It's just something that we're living with right now.

“This last 19-game stretch that we had, we thought that was pretty good,” Gorman added, referring to the Cardinals 12-7 stretch of success. “I mean, we're fighting our way back and doing whatever we can to keep climbing.”

The climb took another couple of tumbles in recent days as the Cardinals came unglued against the rival Pirates. St. Louis squandered a 5-0 lead in a 7-5 loss on Friday, when their bullpen unraveled. On Saturday, struggling starter Jordan Montgomery limited the Pirates to one run over five innings, but he walked Bryan Reynolds and then left a changeup elevated to Connor Joe, who drilled it off the wall for two runs. Another unearned run that scored after Montgomery left proved to be the difference-maker for a Cardinals team that lost to the Pirates for a fourth time in six meetings thus far.

“That’s probably the one changeup I threw bad all day, so it just kind of sucks,” Montgomery said.

Montgomery started the season 2-0 before falling to the Pirates on April 13 -- a game in which he surrendered two earned runs over 6 1/3 innings but lost primarily because of a lack of run support. Never did Montgomery think two months later that he would still be looking for his third win on the season. Not only did he lose a seventh straight decision, but the Cardinals lost a for 10th straight time when he started. Montgomery joined Jose DeLeon (1990) as the only Cardinals starters in the past century to have the team lose in 10 consecutive starts over a single season.

“I could care less about me recording the ‘W.’ I just want the team to win,” said Montgomery, who was charged with just one earned run over 5 2/3 innings because of a sixth-inning fielding error by Nolan Arenado. “But it’s still super early, and I’ll keep going out there and giving them everything that I’ve got.”

Gorman has been giving the Cardinals plenty, as he has climbed to second in the National League in RBIs (42) and tied for sixth in home runs (14). That statistic is even more impressive given that Gorman didn’t become an everyday player until recently, when he was given more chances to face left-handed pitchers.

Gorman had one of the game’s most impressive at-bats in Saturday’s eighth inning. He fell behind hard-throwing reliever Colin Holderman 1-2 before fouling off two pitches, taking ball two, fouling off another pitch, taking ball three, fouling off a fourth pitch and then smoking a Statcast-estimated 404-foot home run. The ball left Gorman’s bat at 108.1 mph, and the fencing behind the right-field stands was the only thing that kept the homer from going into the Allegheny River.

“Against [Holderman], who is running it up there [in the] triple digits with secondary stuff to complement it, that was a tough at-bat,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “To be able to come through there, that was big.”

Gorman is still confident the Cardinals will be able to dig their way out of the NL Central basement by recapturing the groove they had while winning 10 of 13 games in mid-May.

“I think we've had a ton of momentum through that stretch where we were winning games, hammering the ball and the pitching was doing well,” Gorman recalled. “Sometimes things don't go your way. We're going to come back and be perfectly fine.”