Hochman: What MLB history says of 2024 Cardinals possibly making playoffs (hint: could be tough)

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Wherever the confidence that accompanies regular playing time intersects with that warm and familiar feeling of a mother’s home cooking, that’s where Cardinals catcher Iván Herrera has resided for roughly the last two weeks.

Cosmic coincidence aligned Herrera’s injury-propelled rise to the primary catcher role with a visit from his mother, Dona, during the Cardinals previous home stand. As a result, Herrera has provided a stabilizing force for a club that appeared teetering on the edge of calamity.

On Saturday night, Herrera’s steady presence played a key role in the pivotal inning of a 7-2 series-clinching win of the Cardinals against the Boston Red Sox in front of an announced crowd of 40,690 at Busch Stadium.

Herrera extended his career-best hitting streak to nine games with an RBI single in the eighth inning that put the Cardinals (20-25) ahead for good as they captured their fifth win in their last six games.

Afterward, Herrera made a very clear connection between his recent run of offensive production and his mother’s visit from Panama.

“Since she came here, I started raking,” Herrera said with a laugh and a big smile. “She’s probably going to start living with me too.”

Herrera, 23, has batted .284 through his first 31 games of this season. He entered the night with the third-highest batting average in the majors since May 6 (.448).

Herrera said his mother came to United States last summer when he got called up to the majors, but she had to leave before he’d gotten to play in a game. So her first time being in the ballpark and seeing him play in the big leagues came earlier this month.

“Yeah, it is emotional,” Herrera said. “I owe everything to her. She’s the reason why I’m here. I’m just happy I can make her proud, playing good in front of her.”

With the score tied 2-2 in the eighth inning and two men on base after singles by Nolan Arenado and Alec Burleson, Herrera mashed a first-pitch sweeper from Red Sox reliever Justin Slaten on the ground through a drawn-in infield and into left field for an RBI single.

Herrera’s hit, which had an 105.5-mph exit velocity – drove in the go-ahead run and opened the floodgates on a five-run inning that featured six singles, a sacrifice fly and a fielding error.

“If you saw my previous at-bats, they were (throwing) a lot of off-speed,” Herrera said. “I was chasing because I was stubborn in my approach that ‘I want to get a fastball. I want to hit a fastball.’ Then I told (hitting coach) Turner (Ward) that I’m just going to sit off-speed because I know that’s what want to do with me.

“I got the slider. Hit it pretty good. I saw it really good, almost tried to put it in the air. Got the job done. I’m just happy to help the team win.”

The Cardinals offensive woes have been prominent in the early stage of this season. They entered the weekend series with the worst scoring offense in the National League. Several of their key hitters have performed below expectations.

The drum beat about the offensive futility really started to intensify during that previous home stand. Just when the club’s struggles began to become the only relevant daily topic of discussion, their hottest hitter, emotional catalyst and starting catcher Willson Contreras suffered a fractured forearm.

If the sky didn’t already feel like it was falling prior to that point, it might have only been because Contreras’ bat was holding it up.

In the aftermath of his disappointing diagnosis, Contreras tapped his partner behind the plate, Herrera, and let him know it was now his job to keep the sky from falling one at-bat at a time and one pitch at a time as he assumed the responsibility of shepherding the pitching staff to success.







Cardinals host Red Sox

St. Louis Cardinal catcher Ivan Herrerra singles on Saturday, May 18, 2024, in the eighth inning of a game against the Boston Red Sox at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Mo.




“He’s done a really good job,” Cardinals star third baseman Nolan Arenado said of Herrera. “I mean, his bat is really good. He hits the ball hard. Great at-bats. And it seems like his catching is only getting better as he continues to play.

“He’s doing a great job. It’s hard to pick up Willson. That’s a huge piece for us. But I think like any player, the most at-bats you get the more comfortable you’ll get. It seems like that’s what he’s doing.”

Herrera helped the pitching staff hold the Red Sox (22-24) to two runs and just six hits.

Cardinals starting pitcher Miles Mikolas, became the 32nd pitcher in franchise history to make 150 starts for the club, allowed just one run on two hits and one walk in five innings.

Through four innings, Mikolas allowed just one hit and it resulted in a run. Red Sox star third baseman Rafael Devers belted a 1-2 curveball below the zone an estimated 431 feet to center field for a solo home run.

Devers’ blast, his second of the series, snapped a string of seven consecutive batters retired by Mikolas.

The Cardinals defense recorded their 10th outfield assist of the season, which is tied for the second-most in the NL. Their infield defense anchored by Arenado and first baseman Paul Goldschmidt on the corners along with rookie shortstop Masyn Winn and second baseman Nolan Gorman stood tall once again.

Winn made multiple diving plays at shortstop to steal hits and keep the Red Sox from extending innings, while Arenado made a sliding catching along the wall in foul territory to end and inning. Arenado also made an outstanding barehanded play to field and throw to first to keep another runner off base.

For the second night in a row, the Cardinals matched their season high for hits in a game (14). Ten batters recorded at least one hit for the Cardinals.

“I think it’s just the ebbs and flows of the season,” Cardinals infielder/outfielder and leadoff hitter Brendan Donovan said. “You’re going to through rough patches where things aren’t going your way. You’re going to through patches where things are going your way.

“I think that’s a testament to the toughness of this team and the relentlessness and selflessness of this team. If we can continue to do that on a daily basis, I think we’ll be happy with where we’re at.”

Gorman went 2 for 4 with a home run and two runs scored, while Burleson (2 for 4), Arenado (2 for 3) and Lars Nootbaar (2 for 5) also enjoyed multi-hit games.

Winn extended his hitting streak to career-best 10 consecutive games.

In their last six games, they’ve scored 40 runs. They’ve hit home runs in five consecutive games, and they’ve collected 37 hits in their last three games alone.

“At some point you have to put what’s going on behind you and take a deep breath,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said of the recent offensive turnaround. “Guys are — if I could narrow it down to something — just playing with confidence. You just see it. The way they’re carrying themselves. The way they’re holding their shoulders. Just taking the field looks different, and they’re getting results.

“Playing at home and playing well is meaningful. I mean playing in front of that crowd today and them getting behind it, giving them something to cheer about, that gets you going too.”

In today’s “Ten Hochman” sports video — brought to you by Siteman Cancer Center — Ben Hochman discusses the Cardinals offense as it faces Boston.


Benjamin Hochman





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