ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- Friday night at Busch Stadium was, as they say, a whooping. The Cardinals demolished the Reds 14-3, scoring at least a run in five different innings and sending seven or more hitters to the plate three different times.
Cincinnati starter Tim Melville started the game with eight straight balls, putting the first two hitters on for Matt Holliday, a tough draw for any pitcher, much less one who is desperately trying to get a ball into the strike zone.
“He obviously was having a hard time finding the strike zone. You know, you take until you get a strike and then you get aggressive with him,” Holliday said.
On a 1-0 count, Melville finally found the zone with his 10th pitch of the game. His 11th pitch went soaring into the the grass beyond the center field wall.
Holliday’s 3-run shot began an onslaught that lasted until all nine hitters went to bat the first inning. The Cardinals led 4-0, but were far from finished with Melville and the Reds staff. They picked up three more runs in the third off an Aledmys Diaz homer and another in the sixth when Holliday went yard again.
“He’s been hitting the ball well,” Brandon Moss said of Holliday. “Obviously it’s 20-30 at bats into the season and he hasn’t gotten as many hits as he’d like, but he’s been squaring some balls ball up. Today he elevated them and they went 400-whatever feet.”
Holliday sent his pair of homers a combined 870 feet in total, and lifted his average more than 40 points. Following him, Randal Grichuk left the park to left to lead off the seventh inning, then Moss joined in with a pinch-hit shot three batters later. It’s Moss’ second pinch-hit home run of the week and his third overall on the year. It’s a far cry from last season, when the veteran power hitter felt inconsistent at the plate and not as confident in his signature strength.
“It’s the feeling of knowing what I’m able to do. Last year I felt like sometimes even if I got the ball, I had to hit it perfect to get it over the fence,” he said. “If you’re a fly ball hitter like I am, that’s a bad mix. Just being healthy and knowing the power is there, it allows me to relax and try to hit the ball in the air as opposed to trying to hit a ball on a line drive which I’m not very good at doing.”
Another big fly ball hitter, Matt Adams, also had a pinch hit blast, a towering shot to right field for the Cardinals’ sixth homer of the game.
“It was one of those ones you don’t even feel leaving the bat,” said Adams, who has seen sporadic plate opportunities in the season’s opening weeks.
“We have quite a few guys that are swinging it well and it’s tough for him to get the at bats. He’s continuing to just do his work,” Mike Matheny explained. “Like the young guys- keep your head down and keep working and that’s what he’s doing. It was nice to see him get rewarded tonight.”
Adams was the Cardinals’ sixth pinch hitter to homer in the first 10 games. The franchise record for a season is 10, and Matheny says the early bench power boost is no accident.
“We have the kind of bench right now that has the potential to do damage. We talked about that as soon as we started to construct this team. It was going to be something we hadn’t had before,” he said. “Guys are preparing well and whatever they’re doing we want them to keep doing it because it looks really, really good.”
In total, six of the Cardinals’ 13 hits left the park, the most ever for the team in a game at Busch Stadium III. It was a beating from the first inning on, and a continuation of what the offense started in Atlanta.
“We’re swinging at good pitches right now. Balls are up in the zone and guys aren’t missing them,” said Adams.
Part of the availability of hittable pitches has to do with the Cards drawing three of the worst teams in the National League in a row. The three pitching staffs of the Braves, Brewers and Reds combine for an ERA of 15.28 and have allowed 38 home runs.
“You’re not going to make your hay against Liriano and Kershaw. They just don’t give up a ton of home runs,” Holliday said. “You just try to get them when you can, try to have good at-bats and, if you get a bullpen on the wrong side or you get a bullpen that’s tired, you try to take advantage of it.”
The Cardinals have two more games against the Reds before the Cubs come to town. Chicago has allowed only five home runs and has a staff ERA of 2.34.