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4:09 AM UTC
ST. LOUIS — When the Cardinals concluded that they had to find a way to get the mammoth power and emerging bat of Nolan Gorman into the lineup on an everyday basis — even against the lefty pitchers they shielded him from early in the season — manager Oliver Marmol had a blunt and rather pointed question for the second-year slugger.
“In a joking way, I asked him if he’s ready to grow up,” said Marmol. “He said, ‘Yes!’ So, I gave him the first lefty [of the series against the Dodgers] and here we are.”
Two nights after hitting his first MLB home run off a left-hander — Dodgers ace Julio Ur?as, in that instance — Gorman took lefty Victor Gonz?lez deep for a three-run shot that broke an eighth-inning tie and lifted the Cardinals to a 6-5 victory on Saturday at Busch Stadium.
The sellout crowd roared when the 23-year-old Gorman smashed a 93.9 mph fastball out over the middle of the plate for his 13th home run of the season. The blast, which came on the one-year anniversary of his MLB callup, traveled 400 feet and it left the bat at 104.6 mph, per Statcast.
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Most importantly for Gorman, the towering shot offered further proof that he can hold his own against left-handers and that he should be in the surging Cardinals lineup regardless of the pitcher they are facing. Taking Ur?as and Gonz?lez deep in a three-day span showed that the Cardinals were right to give Gorman the shot to play every day — something he quietly longed for early in the season, he said.
“I mean, I want it more than anything,” said Gorman, who extended his hitting streak to 11 games. “That’s why we’re all here. We all want to be in there every day and help this team win as much as possible. So, to answer the question [of playing every day], yeah, I want it more than anything.”
What Gorman also wants is pitches out over the plate to hit because of the damage he can do when he is selective. According to Statcast, Gorman has hit 11 of his 13 home runs on pitches left over the heart of the strike zone. He is on that list with noted power hitters Max Muncy, Aaron Judge, Matt Olson and Pete Alonso.
“Obviously, that’s the name of the game — you’ve got to get a good pitch to hit, and everyone is trying to do that when they’re in the box,” said Gorman, who is 16-for-37 (.432) with six home runs and 16 RBIs during his hitting streak. “Being able to be in a good position and being ready to hit when you get that good pitch, that’s really important.”
The Cardinals, who smashed a franchise-record seven homers on Thursday, improved to 17-13 in games where they homer. They are 3-14 when they fail to hit a ball out of the park, including their shutout loss on Friday.
Known predominantly in his clubhouse for being even-keeled — to the point that people often tell him jokes just to get him to smile — Gorman showed off some rare emotion when he smashed arguably the biggest home run of his young career. As the long ball was sailing toward the seats, he spiked his bat onto the ground and smiled broadly while looking toward his teammates celebrating in the dugout.
“I don’t know what that was,” said Gorman, who noted he didn’t take offense to the Dodgers walking NL MVP Paul Goldschmidt to get to him. “Super excited in that moment and the crowd fired me up. It felt like a playoff atmosphere.”
Gorman said he was aware that Saturday was the anniversary of his promotion. Last season, he hit 14 homers, but the year ended on a sour note when he was demoted because of his struggles hitting high fastballs. Over the offseason, he worked tirelessly to fill that hole in his swing. Now, the second-year star has 39 RBIs — second in the NL only to the Mets’ Alonso.
Growth hitting high fastballs and growth hitting lefties — it’s all a part of Gorman blossoming into the slugger the Cards can count on on an everyday basis.
“I obviously worked all offseason, so to be able to help these guys win, it’s fun to see and fun to do,” Gorman said. “I guess, overall, it’s gratifying, too.”