PHILADELPHIA — In the aftermath of his hitting for the cycle on Friday night, Cardinals third baseman Nolan Arenado had mused he almost would have been happier if his first-inning triple had had a couple of more feet of elevation and turned into one of two homers he could have hit for the night.
“I’d rather have two homers than a cycle,” he had said.
He, smilingly amended that on Saturday after he, indeed, had hit two home runs in the Cardinals’ grinding 7-6 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. “Four hits with two homers (on Friday) would have been a little better (than the cycle),” he said.
“But … whatever wins the ball game.”
In a city where some considerable political history was made some 246 years ago this month, the Cardinals affixed a resounding John Hancock to their own history in the first inning.
For the first time in club annals, the Cardinals hit four consecutive home runs. With two out in the first, former Mizzou star Kyle Gibson was nailed for back-to-back-to-back-to-back home runs by Arenado, Nolan Gorman, Juan Yepez and Dylan Carlson. Arenado’s homer was a two-run shot, scoring Paul Goldschmidt.
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“It was really cool,” said Arenado. “And when they tied the game, it wasn’t that cool. But, looking back, since we won, it was pretty cool.”
But after they made history, the Cardinals also were trying not to repeat recent history. It was this past Sunday they had a 5-0 lead over Chicago after three innings. But the Cubs rallied and won the game in 10 innings.
This time the spread was 5-0 after one frame. Again, the opposition caught up quickly, tying the game in the third inning. “Obviously, it’s frustrating,” Arenado said. “But you’ve got to give credit where credit is due. The Phillies can hit, too.
“We’ve got to find a way to put teams away,” said Arenado.
But Arenado and reliever Ryan Helsley took care that this one didn’t get away. Arenado’s second homer of the game, a ninth-inning clout off Seranthony Dominguez in Arenado’s 5,000th career at-bat, snapped a 6-6 tie.
“The guy’s on a mission, you can tell,” said manager Oliver Marmol. “Fiery is an understatement. He doesn’t want to give anything away.”
Helsley (4-1), who fanned three in the eighth, got two more in the ninth as the Cardinals gave Marmol a 36th birthday gift, which took 4 hours 5 minutes to wrap and deliver.
Asked if it felt like a 15-round fight, Marmol said, “It felt like 20.”
With his brother in town, a weary Marmol said he would celebrate with an adult beverage on Saturday night. “Or seven,” he joked.
If the Cardinals had not come back to win, Marmol admitted, “I would have been (ticked). That could have been a frustrating one there.”
But Marmol applauded his team’s effort to make it happen, punctuated by Helsley making it clear to Marmol during a ninth-inning visit to the mound that he didn’t want to come out of the game, even though the 37 pitches he threw — 10 of them to J.T. Realmuto — probably will keep him out of Sunday’s game. Helsley’s five strikeouts were a career high.
“He was more than adamant about finishing the game,” Marmol said. “He earned that.”
Jordan Hicks, who used to have Helsley’s job, said, “There’s not much more to say, other than to say he was nasty.”
This was the first time since 2020 that four consecutive homers had been hit in the majors and the Cardinals were party to that one, too. Roel Ramirez, coming off a long COVID-19 break in his only appearance that season for the Cardinals, who were short-handed in their pitching, served up four homers in a row on Aug. 16 in Chicago.
Arenado’s 16th homer, a 354-foot drive to left off a slider, was his fifth consecutive hit over two nights. That homer came on a 2-1 count, as did Gorman’s seventh homer, a 392-foot rocket to right center off a cutter.
Yepez drilled a 1-2 slider 353 feet to left for his 10th homer and Dylan Carlson belted the longest one at 407 feet. Carlson’s fifth homer of the season came on a 1-0 sinker.
Marmol had said that after Yepez had hit the third homer in succession, the rookie had looked at the young veteran as if to say, “Whatcha got?”
Carlson had 107 mph off the bat.
This was the first time a team had hit four homers in succession in the first inning of a game. Teams have hit four homers in succession 11 times overall.
After being staked to that 5-0 lead, left-handed rookie Matthew Liberatore got into trouble in the second, giving up two runs and then three more were charged to him in the third.
Marmol said Liberatore’s sinker was too much in the strike zone and that Liberatore “had lost his feel for his breaking ball. Not his best day, but I’d like to see him bounce back.”
Having squandered the lead is “frustrating,” said Liberatore. “Disappointing. I’d like to go out there and show the team that if they give me the lead, I can … seal the deal for them. Go more than three innings, like I did today.”
CBC product Matt Vierling had a sacrifice fly in each of the second and third innings and former Cardinal Yairo Munoz doubled in two runs (charged to Liberatore) against left-handed reliever Zack Thompson. Later in the game, a runner Junior Fernandez inherited scored as Nick Castellanos singled.
Neither Thompson nor Fernandez was charged with a run but Marmol said, “We’ve had Munoz. What does he hit? Fastballs.
“You look at that one and the one Castellanos hit. It’s a matter of executing. Those weren’t well-executed pitches. (But) they did their jobs after that.”
Hicks, who hadn’t pitched for the Cardinals since May 24 because of a forearm flexor problem, was feeling it Saturday. As he netted five outs in the fourth and fifth, Hicks, who had 28 pitches overall, threw 18 pitches that registered 100 mph or higher, including two which measured 103.4 mph and one at 103.1. The 103.4 were the two hardest pitches thrown this season, according to Statcast.
The former closer who was unsuccessful as a starter earlier this season, allowed only two harmless singles in 1 2/3 innings without walking or striking out anybody. No walks matters. No strikeouts doesn’t, he said.
“I don’t need ‘K’s (strikeouts),” said Hicks. “I can live with ground balls.”
Hicks didn’t have total control of his slider, one of which low-bridged Castellanos, prompting the Phillies’ Kyle Schwarber to get excited in the dugout. Arenado was nicked by a pitch in the next inning, initiating more dialogue. “I lost my mind, unnecessarily,” said Schwarber.
“It was nothing. Just a little discussion,” Arenado said.
Arenado will be back at his stand on Sunday night. What’s left for him to accomplish this weekend?
“I don’t know,” Arenado said. “It’s Sunday Night Baseball. All I know is I get to sleep in.”
Photos: Cardinals bounce back in second game in Philadelphia