For the time being, the Cardinals' back-to-back walk-off wins against the Padres on Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon will be remembered for Tommy Edman’s absolutely clutch hitting against All-Star closer Josh Hader.
Someday down the line, however, the stirring victories will likely be pointed to as the moment twin 21-year-old rookies, Jordan Walker and Masyn Winn, first started showing their enormous potential as a dynamic duo.
On Tuesday, when Edman closed the win with a walk-off single against Hader in the bottom of the 10th inning, Walker had an early hit and an RBI. As for Winn, he snapped a 0-for-10 skid with a third-inning single and then made the defensive play of the game in the top of the 10th.
Showing off his tremendous defensive range, Winn dove deep in the hole at shortstop and kept Matthew Batten’s single on the infield -- something that prevented Xander Bogaerts from scoring and the Padres from taking the lead. In the next half-inning, Winn scored the game-winning run after Edman’s hit.
On Wednesday, when Edman eventually won it with a walk-off homer, Walker and Winn exquisitely set the stage. Walker not only authored the first four-hit game of his career, but he smashed a 431-foot three-run homer after the Cardinals had fallen behind 3-0. In the bottom of the ninth, with the Cardinals down to their final strike, Winn laced a liner to left and hustled his way to a double that set up Edman for the winner.
The connective tissue between the two rookies for the ninth-inning heroics: The 5-foot-11 180-pound Winn used the 6-foot-6 245-pound Walker’s longer and heavier bat for the game-extending double.
“Thankfully Jordan Walker let me use his bat for that AB, and I think it had a little bit of magic in it,” said Winn, who used Walker’s 34-ounce, 32-inch Louisville Slugger instead of his 33 1/2-ounce, 31-inch bat. “I’ve been struggling, and I saw [Walker] get four knocks. I just walked up to him and said, ‘Hey man, mine’s not working; let me see if yours has more hits,' and sure enough it did.”
Walker (first round) and Winn (second) were picked out of high school together by the Cardinals in the 2020 MLB Draft. They progressed together through rookie ball and Single-A and were even roommates at Double-A Springfield. This season was the first time they were separated for an extended period with Walker making the Cards’ Opening Day roster and Winn starting at Triple-A. But their bond remained strong, thanks to playing video games online near-daily. Their game of choice: NBA 2K, where Walker, ironically, plays as the playmaking point guard and Winn is the bruising big man.
“We’re just so comfortable around each other,” Walker said of Winn. “We know what to tell each other when things aren’t going well, and we know what to say when things are going good. Masyn has that good equilibrium with telling me what I need to hear and then knowing when to back off. … It’s just nice to have him here and have eyes on me.”
Winn is still eyeing the day when he gets fully acclimated to MLB pitching and the loads of off-speed pitches he’s been force-fed. In nearly two weeks in the Majors, he’s just 7-for-41 (.171) with two extra-base hits. For now, he’s content to contribute however he can, marvel at Walker’s exploits and hope to find his groove soon enough to form a dynamic duo with his best friend.
“What Jordan just did today was unbelievable with the four knocks, and his [home run] bomb was something impressive because it was super majestic,” Winn said. “It’s super exciting for us. I’m hoping him and I can do some big things here.”
When Cardinals catcher Willson Contreras hit two home runs in front of his parents, William and Olga, on Tuesday at Busch Stadium, he became just the second backstop in franchise history with three multihomer games in the same season.
Who is the other Cards catcher with three multi-home run games?
A. Gary Bennett
B. Yadier Molina
C. Tom Pagnozzi
D. Ted Simmons
ROMERO IN RELIEF AND TO THE RESCUE
Ryan Helsley out of action much for the past three months (right forearm tightness), Jordan Hicks traded to Toronto and Giovanny Gallegos enduring a subpar season, the Cardinals' bullpen could have totally fallen to shambles if not for the impressive emergence of new closer JoJo Romero.
Romero, acquired from the Phillies last season in a trade for Edmundo Sosa, closed out Tuesday’s dramatic 6-5 win by throwing two scoreless innings and striking out three hitters. Now 4-1 with three saves and a 3.34 ERA after entering the season having never earned an MLB decision, Romero has allowed just four runs in his past 11 appearances. He has a better than 4-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio (40/9) this season, and the opposition is hitting just .197 against him. Clearly, he’s progressed from crushing [Red Bull] cans to crushing the opposition.
Manager Oliver Marmol said the maturity and leadership that the 26-year-old Romero has shown off the field has been as eye-opening as what he’s done with the baseball.
“I’ve been more impressed by his work before taking the mound than anything,” Marmol said of the Southern California native, who pitched for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic in March. “It’s impressive the way he’s gone about his business and how he prepares for every day. Stuff in the weight room, and with advanced scouting, he’s taken on that [closer] role really well, and he’s got the personality for it. But he’s also led well in the clubhouse and in the bullpen by instilling things that are important. I’ve really enjoyed watching him take over that role.”
“Pags,” who caught for the Cardinals from 1987-98 and won three National League Gold Glove Awards, had three multi-home run games in 1996.
As for Contreras, he has had 14 multihomer games in his eight-year MLB career.
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