BOSTON — Before the game Saturday, manager Oliver Marmol detailed how the Cardinals outfielders had spent time already getting to know the random ricochets and confounding caroms that are all part of the character at Fenway Park.
Coaches and outfielders had thrown baseballs off the hand-operated scoreboard and off the top half of the Green Monster to see the difference. They had visited the triangle in center field where triples go to thrive. They had put in a cram session to play the foreign ballpark with its funky dimensions as well as they could, as close to the locals as possible.
And then the Cardinals never gave the Red Sox a chance to show that proficiency.
Off the wall?
The Cardinals went over it.
With a thunderous response to Friday’s one-run loss, the Cardinals socked three home runs, two to dead center and one over the Monster, and romped in an 11-2 victory against Boston. Nolan Arenado started the power show with a homer in the first inning. Nolan Gorman and Tyler O’Neill followed with homers that traveled 440 feet and 410 feet, respectively, to the seats askew in center. As the Cardinals added on later, they were still going over the wall. Andrew Knizner one-hopped the low barrier in right for an RBI ground-rule double.
The 11 runs were the most scored by the Cardinals in a regular-season game at Fenway. They hit three homers in a game at Fenway for the first time since doing it twice in June 2008.
A double dose of Nolan power puts Cardinals ahead
Although they share a first name, have shared a lineup now for several weeks, and no longer share a position so that they can be in the same lineup, the Cardinals’ Nolans did something Saturday they never had before — but the team is counting on them to do quite often.
They each hit home runs.
For the second time in as many nights at Fenway, Arenado launched a pitch over the 37-foot Green Monster in left field. Arenado’s two-run homer — his 13th home run of the season — staked the Cardinals to a 2-0 lead before Boston got a chance to hit. Three innings later, Gorman led off the fourth inning with a gargantuan homer to straight-away center. The blast cleared the 17-foot wall in and carried an estimated 440 feet from home plate. Gorman’s fourth homer of the season widened the Cardinals’ lead, 4-1.
Gorman at DH again, but Cardinals aren’t second-guessing
In a rarity so far this season, manager Oliver Marmol Xeroxed his lineup for back-to-back days, and that put Gorman at designated hitter for the fifth time this season.
Cardinals management suggested the rookie would see limited time at DH so that he could continue to improve at second base with consistent reps at his new position. They wanted him in the field, where he’s shown strong improvement in the past month. The decision to put him at DH in Boston — while giving the defense a boost with Brendan Donovan at second — was not a reflection of his defense. It revealed the Cardinals’ view of their preferred matchups for the Red Sox lefty relievers.
Donovan would face them.
Gorman, likely, would not.
Since swapping out the DH is easier than making two moves to get the second baseman out of the lineup, Marmol opted to put Gorman at DH so that if a lefty came in to face him the swap would be straight — a right-handed bat for the left handed-hitting rookie. No shuffling around in the field necessary.
“He took it as a challenge as far as that we were losing defense by bringing him up here,” Marmol said of Gorman at second. “He’s developing his skill set at second.”
Six is a serious inning
As the Cardinals have climbed the ranks of run-scoring in the majors, starting the day with the fifth-most in the majors, they have talked about becoming a deep lineup, but they have consistently been an opportunistic one. Boston invited trouble in the sixth and got it.
Two Red Sox relievers combined to walk three batters in the inning. Sprinkle in a fielding error at first base, and the Cardinals had fuel for a runaway rally.
The Cardinals sent a dozen batters to the plate in the inning. O’Neill started the scoring with a homer to dead center — his second since returning from the injured list. Two walks bracketed a single by Harrison Bader to load the bases for leadoff hitter Tommy Edman. Unlike the rally Boston failed to have in its fourth, Edman amplified the Cardinals’ with a two-run single. The error followed, and Paul Goldschmidt exploited that for a two-run single. Arenado added his third RBI of the game to conclude the scoring for the inning.
By the time Boston escaped, the Cardinals had widened their lead to eight runs. Nine of the 12 batters reached base, and eight had a run or RBI in the frenzy.
Thompson continues to dazzle in relief
As the Cardinals continue to look for places to use him, rookie lefty Zack Thompson has made a case for when he might be best deployed: as often as possible.
Thompson retired all nine batters he faced for three innings as the Cardinals’ lead grew Saturday night at Fenway. He struck out four, did not give the Sox much to work with at all, and toggled comfortably between 96 mph with his fastball and 72 mph with his curveball. The breaking ball that he did not use all that much as a starter got him two swings and misses. In two relief appearances so far this season, Thompson has retired 21 of the 25 batters faced, seven by strikeouts.
After walking into trouble, Hudson stays grounded
With an improved tempo to how he pitches, one of the biggest things bogging down Dakota Hudson’s starts continues to be walks. A consistent description of the right-hander’s potential from scouts and peers has been that his breakout will happen when he reduces the walks, when he asserts the quality of his pitches within the strike zone.
In back-to-back seven-inning starts earlier this month, Hudson slashed his walk rate down to one in each game. That aided his pitch count too, as he threw 60% strikes and pushed deep in games. All three of his starts this month had been seven innings.
Walks cost him a chance at a fourth Saturday.
In five innings, Hudson allowed a season-high five walks, and three of them came in what could have been a capsizing fourth inning for the right-hander. He got two quick outs bookended around a single. The next three batters all walked to first load bases and then force a run in. The three walks came in the span of 16 pitches, and two of the walks came on four pitches. Hudson didn’t challenge with a strike with one out to get.
Boston’s rally, goosed along by the walks, produced a run and trimmed the Cardinals’ lead down to 4-2. But that last walk, a four-pitch mistake to No. 9 hitter Kevin Plawecki, brought the top of the Red Sox order around with the bases loaded. Hudson greeted leadoff hitter Jarren Duran with what he didn’t have for his previous three teammates — strikes. It was in one inning the turnaround and trust in his sinker that will lead to his ascension.
Hudson went to that fastball, got it in the zone, and — voila — a groundout.
Hudson walked himself off the mound, leaving Boston with three stranded runners.
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