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Goldy's HR in 5th straight has Cards in 1st alone

@anne__rogers
July 27, 2019

ST. LOUIS -- As he walked to the plate in the bottom of the eighth inning Friday night, Paul Goldschmidt reminded himself -- with two runners on base, no outs and a chance to take the lead over the Astros -- to “just have a good at-bat.” The at-bat was

ST. LOUIS -- As he walked to the plate in the bottom of the eighth inning Friday night, Paul Goldschmidt reminded himself -- with two runners on base, no outs and a chance to take the lead over the Astros -- to “just have a good at-bat.”

The at-bat was about as good as it could get, with Goldschmidt’s fifth home run in as many days. This one was a three-run shot to propel the Cardinals to a 5-3 victory at Busch Stadium -- and atop the National League Central, one game ahead of the rival Cubs. It’s the first time the Cardinals have had sole possession of first place in the division this late in the season since Oct. 3, 2015.

Box score

As the ball soared over center field, Goldschmidt mouthed, “Come on,” willing the ball over the glove of George Springer and into in the shrubs that separated the wall from the fans sitting in the bleachers.

“I knew I hit it well, I thought it could be a little too high, couldn’t tell if he jumped in the air and caught it,” Goldschmidt said. “Glad he didn’t.”

After ending an eight-game road trip tied atop the National League Central and eight games above .500, the Cardinals knew their work had hardly begun. The real test would be this weekend, against the Astros, and next week’s series -- which spills into the July 31 Trade Deadline -- against the Cubs.

With their season-high sixth consecutive win Friday, consider the first section of the test passed, at least for the night.

“I think every [win] matters,” Goldschmidt said. “You win today and don’t play well the rest of the homestand, it’s not going to matter. I think that’s what our focus is, take it day by day. Every win is great, a loss is what it is, just move on to the next day. I think we’ve done a good job of that, even when we were going through the losing streak. Not getting too high or too low.

"This could come down to the last game of the year, so we know every game is important.”

And every inning is important. Down two after Jack Flaherty, who pitched six innings and struck out nine, yielded a two-run homer to Michael Brantley, the Cardinals scraped a run together with Kolten Wong’s RBI single in the fourth.

Then, down one after John Gant walked two batters and Andrew Miller walked Brantley, the Cardinals put two on base for Goldschmidt. The come-from-behind victory was in motion.

“I’ve said it for a while now, and we keep proving it: This is a team that’s gonna compete regardless of circumstance, and that’s a great attribute for a team,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “It’s a championship-caliber trait. You play the game regardless of [the] situation. We’ve demonstrated that.”

It’s no coincidence that the Cardinals' surge -- 12-3 since the All-Star break -- coincides with Goldschmidt’s surge -- nine home runs, 25 RBIs in his past 16 games. And as the Cardinals have stayed steady no matter the score of the game or where they are in the standings, so has Goldschmidt.

A “winning trait” on a “winning team,” Shildt said.

“You find out about people when they’re not going as good, and you find out about their habits, their mentality, their toughness, their fortitude,” Shildt said. “You find out everything about them. I’ve used this quote before, from [bullpen coach Bryan Eversgerd], ‘Who you are is what you do when you’re at your most uncomfortable.’ There’s been moments this year where [Goldschmidt has] been uncomfortable. But he’s been a complete pro and very positive with how he’s going about it and very even-keeled.”

Goldschmidt’s mindset has been the same since the start of Spring Training with the Cardinals, through the five-year extension he signed, through Opening Day and through the season that has seen the Cardinals as much as 6 1/2 games out of first place and now at the top of the division thanks to his game-winning home run Friday night.

“Show up and help us win games,” he said. “That’s my mindset now, that’s what it will be tomorrow, that’s what it will be for the rest of the year.”

Anne Rogers covers the Cardinals for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @anne__rogers and on Facebook.