Cardinals overpower Dodgers, 16-8, by blasting record seven home runs

The rules of the hamburger phone are simple as initially codified during a charter flight to Chicago and just in time to make some history Thursday.

If a Cardinals player wants to predict a home run from a teammate, all he has to do is walk over to the hamburger phone acquired recently, dial that player’s jersey number, and watch. Each player gets one call per game, unless their chosen player reaches base or makes good on the prediction. The burger kept busy Thursday as the Cardinals hit four homers in one inning against the Dodgers, five by the end of the fourth, and Willson Contreras and Nolan Gorman added two more in the eighth inning for a club record seven homers at Busch Stadium III.

The burger, however, was not the only phone getting a workout.

To avoid misplacing a seven-run lead the early homers created, the Cardinals had to call and call again on relievers. Drew VerHagen and Jordan Hicks brought calm to the proceedings before an eighth-inning outburst powered the Cardinals to a 16-8 victory against Los Angeles. The Cardinals took a one-run lead into the bottom of the eighth and then amplified it with Contreras’ and Gorman’s second home runs of the game.

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The seven home runs by the Cardinals are the most in a home game since before Stan Musial’s debut. The Cardinals had seven homers at home May 7, 1940, also against the Dodgers.

The nine homers are a record for a game at Busch III.

The Cardinals dialed up home runs from Contreras, Juan Yepez, Gorman, and Paul DeJong in the third inning to take and extend a lead for starter Adam Wainwright. Wainwright got the win after 5 2/3 innings for his 107th at home as a Cardinal. Gorman’s solo homer off Dodgers lefty Julio Urias was the first of his career against a left-hander. Nolan Arenado added a homer in the fourth before it was LA’s turn to chase Wainwright from the game in the sixth and chomp into the Cardinals’ lead with a grand slam.

VerHagen and Hicks held the one-run lead through two scoreless innings.

Then the burger got back to buzzing.

After Contreras’ three-run homer in the seven-run eighth inning, the Cardinals catcher stood on the top step of the dugout, not too far from the burger phone and got the classic Busch Stadium call — a curtain call.

Contreras: Are you not entertained?

The home run was hit with such authority and majesty that Contreras took a moment to watch it carry over the center field wall.

It also happened to be his homer.

The Cardinals’ once, current, and future catcher continued to be what he was all along — a hitter — and did he enjoy the results. Contreras flipped the game and ignited the third-inning jubilee with his three-run homer to straightaway center. The ball traveled 434 feet, and Contreras walked the first 40 feet of his trip to first base. As he rounded third he paused, slowed, and then spread his arms to show off the redbird logo on his chest and his wingspan. If the Dodgers took any issue with Contreras’ playing to the crowd, they did not have any time to express it.

The home runs kept coming.

Dial H for homers

Contreras’ three-run shot bulldozed the Dodgers’ two-run lead and ignited one of the most power-packed innings in years.

Two batters after Contreras’ homer, Yepez pinch-hit for Tommy Edman and hit a solo homer. Gorman followed with his homer on a full-count pitch. And DeJong punctuated the back-to-back homers with a bolt off the left-field foul pole. The last Cardinals’ trio to hit back-to-back-to-back homers since July 2022.

That July 2, 2022 game was also the last time the Cardinals hit four homers in an inning. The Dodgers have only allowed four home runs in a single inning three times since 1969 — once in 2021 and then all the way back in 1970.

The single inning tied a season-high for home runs off Urias, and the Cardinals weren’t picky when it came to his pitches. Contreras and Yepez sent changeups over the wall. Gorman launched a 78.6-mph slurve over the wall, and DeJong ended a nine-pitch at-bat by lifting a 91.3-mph fastball high and far to left field.

The burger phone had the best view, stacked on the dugout railing for the entire inning, awaiting the next player to push its buttons.

Dodgers slug way back into game

And then the Dodgers started dialing long distance.

Down by seven runs after five innings, it took one walk, one error, and then two loud swings to hoist Los Angeles back into the game. Freddie Freeman’s 300th homer of his career was a grand slam off Cardinals reliever Genesis Cabrera that capped a five-run sixth inning for LA. Max Muncy followed in the seventh with a solo homer that narrowed the Cardinals’ lead to a run. All it took was a seam, and LA seized on it.

A fielding error at first base by Paul Goldschmidt prolonged the inning and meant all five runs were unearned — but they counted all the same. Wainwright was out of the game after an RBI single, and Cabrera had his chance to calm the inning.

He got ahead 0-2 on Trayce Thompson, a .117 hitter, before allowing a free pass.

The next batter, former MVP Freeman, mashed a 95.6-mph fastball to center field for the fourth grand slam of his career. The bruising would not show on Wainwright’s ERA, but it was blinking and bright on the scoreboard. Muncy, a left-handed hitter like Freeman, opened the seventh with another homer of Cabrera and give his colleagues a one-run lead to hold.

Collision jars Edman from game

The replay of the collision in right-center field showed Edman clearly calling for the ball as it soared ever deeper toward the wall.

He just also caught Lars Nootbaar, too.

Center fielder Nootbaar and right fielder Edman crashed into each other chasing a drive to the gap. Both had a line on the ball — and had to sprint a long way to get there. They arrived at the same time, Edman reaching up and nearly behind the onrushing Nootbaar to get a glove on the ball. Only after they met, crumpled, and got up from the warning track did Edman show he had the ball. Both players stayed in the game, but signs of concern came quick for the dugout.

In the bottom of the second inning, manager Oliver Marmol called time so he and an athletic trainer could meet Edman at second base after seeing him run on the bases. A trainer met Edman at the dugout as he ambled off the field, too, and after another inning, Edman would not emerge from the dugout, giving way to Yepez for the third-inning at-bat.

The Cardinals’ switch-hitting, do-everything fielder left the game with what diagnosed initially as soreness in his lower abdomen. He was due for further evaluation late Thursday.

Mercado makes most of long-awaited start

Way back in June 2013, a young shortstop from Tampa, Florida, got the call that the Cardinals were about to draft him in the second round. A few weeks later, he got the call that his chance to take batting practice at Busch Stadium was rained out. And five years after that, he got the call that he had been traded to Cleveland in July 2018.

Almost 10 years after he first became a Cardinal, Mercado made his first start with the Cardinals — and dialed up the style of game he developed in their system.

On his way to a three-hit game, Mercado singled and doubled in his first two at-bats, using his speed to turn a flare to left field into extra bases. He stole two bases, including home on a double steal in the fourth inning and second to spark the six-run third. After his leadoff single, Mercado stole second. He was initially called out but the Cardinals challenged and replay overturned the call. That put the inning in motion that mushroomed into four homers in the span of five batters.

The Cardinals needed every single one.

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2023-05-19 02:55:00