One of the prides of Beaumont High School, Earl Weaver, had a simplistic style in managing the Baltimore Orioles. The Hall of Famer said, “The key to winning baseball games is pitching, fundamentals and three-run homers.”
Cardinals manager Mike Shildt, who used to do all manner of odd jobs with Baltimore’s Charlotte Class AA team while his mother worked in the front office, said he became acquainted with Weaver’s philosophy, especially that three-run homer part, early on.
“I’ve known it since I was learning my ABCs,” said Shildt late Wednesday afternoon.
The Cardinals had the pitching - perfect relief for 4 1/3 innings before Carlos Martinez finally nailed down a 6-5 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates at Busch Stadium. They didn’t have any fundamental breakdowns. And they had a three-run homer.
Paul Goldschmidt’s first three-run homer since the second day of the season erased a 4-3 Pittsburgh lead in the seventh and could have been his most important hit as a Cardinal.
"Yeah, probably,” said Goldschmidt. “You’re down by a run there. It was just nice to be able to contribute and help us get the win.”
The homer was Goldschmidt’s 18th but he said, “It’s not about me trying to get a certain number. That’s why today’s hit or home run was so enjoyable – it helped us win a game. That’s the fun part. That’s why we’re here.”
Goldschmidt, whose extra-base hits are starting to pile up, said he chokes up with two strikes, as he had against Michael Feliz, “to try to put the ball in play.
“I’m not one to go up there and just swing and have the strikeouts be astronomically high. I know there are lots of holes out there. It’s kind of a balancing point between trying to put the ball in play but also making sure you hit it hard enough for the right way you can get a hit.”
Neither Shildt nor Weaver would find fault with Goldschmidt’s methodology Wednesday.
Nor that of Tyler O’Neill, who has taken the ball and run with it since Marcell Ozuna went out with finger fractures on his right hand. O’Neill had his fourth homer on this six-game stand and he didn’t start the first game. He also had two doubles in the home stand and three times - once on an error - chased Goldschmidt home from first base in the first inning of a game. But he also mixed in a few singles, including a run-scoring hit in the first inning Wednesday.
“He’s had a lot of big hits,” said Goldschmidt. “A lot of power as well as driving in a lot of runs. As we saw in the first inning, he’ll take a single to right and not necessarily over-swing.
“I know the other teams know that if they make a mistake it will be a home run. But, if not, he’ll take his walks. He’s been a force in the middle of the lineup. It’s been nice, hitting in front of him. You don’t have to do too much. I’ve been thinking (that) if I can get on base he’ll drive me in, which he’s done a few times.
"It’s disappointing when I don’t get on because he can do a lot.”
Besides the obvious lift of Goldschmidt’s blast, Shildt appreciated O’Neill’s homer in the fifth off Pittsburgh starter Chris Archer, who was ready to be had in the first couple of innings but had found his groove.
“Three-run homer – that’s pretty much everybody’s best friend,” said Shildt. “O’Neill’s solo homer didn’t hurt either.”
But the manager also pointed to O’Neill’s opposite-field, run-scoring single in the first.
“I applaud him,” said Shildt, “because he chased early in that at-bat on Archer, fouled probably a slider. . . you could see he stepped back and was like, ‘C’mon, c’mon, bear down, get a good pitch.’’’
But O’Neill made it sound a little less scientific than that. “I’m not thinking about which pitch is coming, or what am I going to do if ‘this’ happens. I’m just seeing the ball and letting my hands react and it’s paying off so far,” he said.
O’Neill preferred to defer to Goldschmidt. “Three-run bomb, late in the game . . . you can’t get much better than that,” said O’Neill.
The burly Canadian has provided cleanup thump with Ozuna, a 20-homer man from that spot, out for at least a couple of more weeks. “Obviously, he’s a physical presence,” said Shildt. .
“We share weight-room time, sometimes. I just do light stuff because I’m a confidence builder.”
Then, Shildt took mock exception to the reaction that statement caused.
“Why’d you guys laugh at that?” he said.
“I just don’t do chests on those days. I want to make sure he feels good about himself.”
On a steamy day, the Cardinals trailed twice before rallying late, sacrificing their bodies to some extent. Dexter Fowler sailed into the right-field box seats in a futile attempt to catch a foul fly in the ninth inning.
“It speaks to the desire and hunger of the team,” said Shildt, who then quoted bullpen coach Bryan Eversgerd, not necessarily considered a quotemeister.
The quote, as Shildt relayed it is, “Who you are is what you do at your most uncomfortable.”
Fowler certainly seemed uncomfortable afterward.
“Hands, back, legs, everything,” Fowler said. “That hurt. Everywhere. I’ll live, though.
“There were no people there (to cushion the blow),” said Fowler. “Everybody wants the ball till the ball comes over there. Everybody gets out of the way. (But you) got to go do what you’ve got to do.”
Daniel Ponce de Leon was nickeled-and-dimed by the Pirates a bit in allowing eight hits in four innings but two of the hits were by Archer, including a game-tying single in the fourth. Archer had been one for 25 (.040).
“You just should never give up two hits to the opposing team's pitcher. So . . . if I don't do that, I'm out of the inning with no runs,” said Ponce de Leon.
“I just couldn't stop the bleeding there. You learn.”
The Cardinals left for Cincinnati two games over .500 again at 48-46. They won four of six on the home stand.
“There are going be games that you for sure are going to win or for sure are going to lose,” said Goldschmidt. “Those ones in the middle . . . you try to find a way to get that one hit or make a play or make a pitch or whatever it will be.”
Fowler’s view was that “if you win series, you’ll be all right. That’s the key to everything. If you win all the series, you’ll be in first place.”