Post Content Cardinals News 

5:44 AM UTC

CHICAGO — Paul DeJong worked on overhauling his swing throughout the offseason at the Cardinals’ complex in Jupiter, Fla., brushing aside almost everything he had used to hit 30 home runs and make the National League All-Star team in 2019 in favor of a more balanced and compact stroke.

Then, not long into a Spring Training that he figured could dictate the direction of his career, debilitating back pain hit DeJong. Without warning, the swing he had worked to retool was useless because he was unable to coil or even bend at the waist.

While the setback appeared to potentially further derail a career that had been locked in a three-year spiral, DeJong clung to the faith that once he was healthy again, his new minimal-stride approach could be a big help to a Cardinals club always in search of more pop.

DeJong notched the biggest hit of his latest MLB revival, jumping on a 2-1 pitch in the ninth inning and hitting a towering tiebreaking home run that lifted the Cardinals to a 6-4 win over the Cubs on Tuesday night and secured their first three-game winning streak of the season. Unlike in years past, when DeJong featured a high leg kick — one that led to him being off-balance and not on time — the shortstop barely lifted his left heel off the ground as he hit the Statcast-projected 413-foot clout that electrified St. Louis’ dugout for a second straight win at Wrigley Field.

“I’ve been off to a good start, and I’m just trying to get my swing off while zoning in on the middle of the plate,” said DeJong, who was 2-for-3 with two RBIs. “Each day I’m just building more confidence, and I’m just thankful to be here. There are a lot of good emotions right now.”

Your browser does not support HTML5 video tag. Click here to view original asset

Despite the lows he has waded through the past three years while trying to rekindle his career, DeJong knows the joy of being the hero at Wrigley Field. In his career, DeJong, who spent his teen years in Illinois, has homered 14 times at Wrigley — six of them coming in the ninth inning. This one, he said, will rank near the top because of the struggles the Cardinals have endured this season. On Tuesday, DeJong’s father, Keith — a Wrigleyville resident — and a former college teammate from Illinois State were on hand to see him go deep again at his favorite road stadium.

“It’s fun being here, and this is like coming home for me. And it’s such a big rivalry, so everybody is always excited about coming to Wrigley,” said DeJong, who considers his back-to-back home runs with Yadier Molina off Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel in 2019 as his biggest career Wrigley moment.

Working to dig their way out of a nine-game losing streak — their longest in six seasons — and a start not seen in St. Louis circles in 50 years, the Cardinals have finally started putting together the kind of solid all-around baseball that was so elusive. The result has been a three-game winning spree.

“It’s easy to break and cave, especially when you have the kind of April we had,” manager Oliver Marmol said. “Through that stretch, I said it would create perseverance, and that creates character. We’re going to anchor to that. And regardless of what happened, we’re going to stay together, and that clubhouse has done that. We’re playing much better baseball, and we’re committed to doing that every day.”

Knowing he was facing a make-or-break season, DeJong devoted himself to making significant changes to his approach. However, all those swings did a number on his back, causing him to miss most of Spring Training and begin the regular season in the Minor Leagues on a pair of rehab stints.

DeJong, who has vowed to live more in the present and not fixate on the past, never lost confidence that his offseason work would eventually pay dividends. That materialized again on Tuesday with his third homer, giving him a .350 batting average.

Your browser does not support HTML5 video tag. Click here to view original asset

“The perfectionist in me is trying to do something productive in every at-bat. But when things don’t go well, I can try to learn from it, as opposed to [thinking], ‘Here we go again,’ or those other emotions that maybe I’ve felt the last couple of years,” DeJong said. “Now, it’s more about trusting what I’m doing before games will translate to the games. It’s been fun bouncing ideas off [hitting coaches Turner Ward and Brandon Allen], and I’m having fun coming to the field every day.”