ST. LOUIS -- On his day off, Paul Goldschmidt emerged the hero.
In the bottom of the 11th inning, Goldschmidt -- who entered the game at first base in the top of the ninth -- hit a 453-foot home run to left field to give the Cardinals a 2-1 win over the Marlins on Wednesday night.
Goldschmidt was given the day off to "reset," and it seemed to work -- eventually. He struck out in his first at-bat in the ninth, after hitting a long ball that was just foul. But he came back in the 11th to hit his 14th home run of the season and, at 110.2 mph, his hardest-hit homer of 2019, according to Statcast.
Going into Wednesday, Goldschmidt had one hit -- a home run in New York on Sunday -- in his last 22 at-bats. He went 0-for-4 on Tuesday against the Marlins.
"I've had chances to drive guys in or get on base, and I haven't been doing the greatest job doing that," Goldschmidt said. "It's nice to contribute and be a big part of a win, but that's why it's a team sport. Just try to keep working hard and play better and help us win."
Before Goldschmidt stole the show with the homer, Daniel Ponce de Leon's solid start put the Cardinals in position to win. The right-hander threw six scoreless innings in his third spot start of the season.
Ponce de Leon was more effective than his last time out, against the Mets on Friday, when he threw 36 pitches in the first inning, most of them fastballs in the upper part of the zone. On Wednesday, he had all four of his pitches working and threw 34 pitches through the third inning. And he kept cruising, throwing 90 pitches -- 60 of them for strikes. He struck out six and allowed two hits.
"He was fantastic," Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. "In control. He's got pitches he can play at this level, and he's proven that. Tonight he was effective. He did a great job. Good tempo, aggressive, good body language, in attack mode. Our pitching was outstanding tonight."
Ponce de Leon has been reliable in all three of his starts for the Cardinals, showing some of the pitching depth that St. Louis needs as it struggles with injuries. Ponce de Leon has started in place of Adam Wainwright (left hamstring strain) in his past two outings, allowing one run and four hits over 10 innings.
In late April, starting for Michael Wacha, Ponce de Leon gave up one run on two hits in five innings.
Ponce de Leon is still looking for his first Major League win, but being part of the walk-off victory made that concern disappear.
"You cannot not enjoy a walk-off that almost hit the moon," Ponce de Leon said.
The question now is what Ponce de Leon's future might be. Wainwright is scheduled to come off the injured list Thursday to start the series finale against the Marlins, and Wacha is slated to pitch Friday. That leaves the five-man rotation full -- with Ponce de Leon on the outside.
He could get sent back to Triple-A Memphis, but after Wednesday's outing, Shildt said Ponce de Leon has "earned the opportunity to have more opportunities" in the Majors. That could mean in the rotation later this season or in a bullpen role for the time being.
Does Ponce de Leon think he's earned another chance?
"Most definitely," he said. "[Tonight] proves I belong here, and I should pitch here."