The Rally Squirrel officially has company.
With the Cardinals trailing the Royals 5-4 in the bottom of the sixth Wednesday night at Busch Stadium, a new St. Louis phenomenon was born. As Yadier Molina stood in the batter’s box with the bases loaded, a tiny mammal emerged from stands down the third base line and found its way onto the playing surface.
As the unidentified creature scampered toward Royals’ center fielder Lorenzo Cain, Busch Stadium cameras panned to it, and flashed the image onto the video board. That’s when fans throughout the stadium realized it was no vermin, but an adorable kitten enjoying some playtime on the outfield grass. Many awwws were shared.
Once Busch Stadium staff safely removed the kitten from the field, things got pretty eerie. On the next pitch from Peter Moylan, Yadier Molina launched a go-ahead grand slam to send the crowd into a frenzy, and the Cardinals to an 8-5 lead.
"I'm not a cat person, but I sure like that one," Mike Matheny said. "I've been told it's already been picked up, somebody claimed it pretty quick."
The bullpen held on to preserve the 8-5 win for the Cardinals, as Trevor Rosenthal earned his ninth save of the season. After relieving Mike Leake, who gave up five runs over five innings, Matt Bowman earned the win with a scoreless sixth. That makes five straight wins for St. Louis, pulling the Cardinals into a tie for second with the Brewers in the NL Central, and within 1.5 games of the first-place Cubs.
Just like that, the Cardinals fortunes are changing.
"Before the cat ran onto the field, just seeing Yadi walk up to the plate, I felt good about our chances," Matt Carpenter said. "Then I saw the cat, and I knew something special was about to happen. So it was pretty cool.
It's not just the frisky feline–the little kitten bit the grounds crew member who removed it from the field–that has helped the Cardinals restore its swagger. Wednesday was the Cardinals third straight disposal of the Royals, outscoring Kansas City 29-11. Dating back the Sunday vs. Cincinnati, St. Louis has erupted for 42 runs in four games. As Matheny reiterated before Wednesday's win, he's been saying all season the offense would come for his club.
Well, maybe it has.
"From my opinion, every team's got a run," said Jose Martinez, who homered again in Wednesday's win. "Everybody's gotten theirs, so it's our time now. We're enjoying it, and we're just going to take advantage of every situation, and try to win everyday."
The image of the cat on the field immediately inspired memories of the famous Rally Squirrel, which notably bounded across home plate during a Skip Schumaker at-bat in Game 4 of the 2011 NLDS against the Phillies. The Cardinals, of course, went on the win the World Series later that October. The current Cardinals feel they are in position to make a run of their own after taking several months to get into a groove.
"I've said it a thousand times, and I believe it, that there's just too may guys in this clubhouse that weren't performing to their career norms," Carpenter said. "When you have that many guys underachieving individually and collectively, it's not where we want to be. You've got to figure that it's eventually going to change. It looks like it's all happening at the same time, so it has a chance to be pretty special."
Does the Rally Kitten (Rally Cat?) represent better days to come for the 2017 Cardinals? If nothing else, Wednesday’s affair serves as proof: You truly can’t predict baseball.
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