Monday night’s series opener for the St. Louis Cardinals in Arizona had a little bit of everything, from a strong starting pitching performance from Lance Lynn, to an awful bullpen outing from J.C. Romero.
The real story of the game for me was the back-to-back home runs hit by Allen Craig and David Freese in the top of the seventh inning. That gave the Cardinals important breathing room after the Snakes had hung a six-spot on the board in the bottom of the sixth which pulled the home team to within one run.
According to researcher Tom Orf, Monday marked the first time since July 15, 2007 that the Cardinals hit back-to-back homers twice in a game. That time, it was Albert Pujols/Chris Duncan and Juan Encarnacion/Adam Kennedy doing the honors.
Leading off Monday’s game, Rafael Furcal also homered. It was the team’s first five-home run showing since that same July 15, 2007 outing, which was held in Philadelphia. The Cards hit six taters that night. Pujols launched two with Ryan Ludwick adding the other.
Monday’s five home runs are the most by a National League team in a game this season to date, but how does that compare over time? I asked Orf, and he answered!
Monday marked the 31st time the Cardinals hit at least five home runs in a single contest. The team record is seven, coincidentally accomplished on the same May 7 date, back in 1940. It was tied by Tony La Russa’s first Cardinals club, on July 12, 1996. Four times, Cardinals hitters launched six homers in a game.
Here is a summary of the first 30 such games, sorted by number of home runs then date, with most recent on top.
Most home runs, game, St. Louis Cardinals team history
|1993-09-07 (2)||CIN||W 15-2||44||36||15||11||0||0||5||15||6||0||11||0||1||1|
|1963-07-28 (2)||CHC||L 11-16||44||40||11||15||1||0||5||10||3||0||8||0||1||0|
|1954-05-02 (1)||NYG||W 10-6||43||37||10||14||1||0||5||9||5||0||6||0||1||0|
|1940-09-08 (1)||PIT||L 14-16||48||41||14||15||1||0||5||14||7||0||0||0||0||0|
What makes Monday’s game stand out from the ones that preceded it was the fact that the five home runs originated from the bats of each of the first five hitters in Mike Matheny’s batting order – Furcal, Beltran, Holliday, Craig and Freese.
Again, Orf delivered in the clutch with the answer to my question. It was only the second game in team history in which the top five hitters went deep.
The first was on April 14, 1955. It was just the second game of the season, a year which quickly became forgettable. Manager Eddie Stanky would be fired after just 36 games, to be replaced by Triple-A skipper Harry “The Hat” Walker.
In a painful twist and an indication of what was ahead, the Cubs launched six homers against Cardinals pitching in the very next contest. The 1955 Cards went on to lose more games than in any year since 1924. That cost Walker his job after the season, as well.
All was still hopeful during that April 14 contest, an 8-7 Cardinals win over the Braves in the home opener at the first Busch Stadium. The top five in the order, all of whom homered, were right fielder Wally Moon, centerfielder Bill Virdon, first baseman Stan Musial, left fielder Rip Repulski and second sacker Red Schoendienst.
In just his second game as a major leaguer, the number six hitter that day, Ken Boyer, just missed joining the others as he tripled in the game. Virdon’s long ball was the walkoff winner in the 11th inning.
Perhaps there should be an asterisk next to the home run totals of the 1955 Cardinals. That season, the 21-foot high screen in front of the right field pavilion, a fixture at Sportsman’s Park since 1929, was removed. This was done to take advantage of the left-handed power hitters in the lineup.
While the Cards may have won the battle, they clearly lost the war. The club increased its home run total at Busch from 57 in 1954 to 84 in 1955, but as noted, the bottom line was not pretty. The 1955 Cardinals went 68-86 and finished 30 ½ games out of first place. As mentioned above, two managers lost their jobs and Frank “Trader” Lane was brought in as general manager following the season.
And that right field pavilion screen? It was returned to its place in 1956. In fact, the new one was four feet higher, at 25 feet.