After going more than two full seasons without a walk-off home run, the Cardinals have collected two in as many nights -- against a division rival, to boot. On Monday, Matt Adams homered off the Pirates' Justin Wilson to give St. Louis a 2-0 win. On Tuesday, Kolten Wong played the hero, connecting for a solo shot off Pittsburgh's Ernesto Frieri to give the Cardinals a 5-4 win.
Wong, a 23-year-old rookie who struggled early this season to the point of being sent back to Triple-A Memphis, had given the Cardinals a lead back in the second inning with a two-run double off Pirates starter Vance Worley. Pittsburgh tied it in the fourth on a two-run homer by Pedro Alvarez, and went ahead 4-2 in the fifth on a two-run shot by Andrew McCutchen, both of which came off St. Louis starter Carlos Martinez. The Cardinals answered via a two-run Matt Holliday double in the bottom of the fifth, and the game remained deadlocked into the bottom of the ninth, with neither team even advancing a runner to second base in the interim.
Frieri, acquired from the Angels via trade on June 27, came in to start the bottom of the inning. He retired Jhonny Peralta via groundout, struck out Oscar Taveras looking, and got ahead of Wong 0-2 before throwing three straight balls. Via MLB Gameday, all five pitches were outside the strike zone. His sixth pitch — a 95 mph fastball — was toward the outside edge of the plate, but that was enough for Wong to pounce:
The shot, Wong's third homer of the year and second in three games since returning from a stint on the disabled list for left shoulder inflammation, was estimated at 402 feet by the ESPN Home Run Tracker. Coupled with Adams' game-winner, it was the first time since June 4-5, 2011 that the Cardinals won back-to-back games on walk-off homers. Their last such hit before this outburst came from David Freese, in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series against the Rangers.
Before Wong's winning blast, no team had produced fewer walk-off homers than the Cardinals since the start of the 2012 season. Now, they're tied with the Mariners and Blue Jays for the MLB low, with the A's and Indians tied for the lead at 11.
With his big night, Wong lifted his season line to .238/.289/.351. More importantly, the Cardinals (49-43) gained ground in a tight NL Central race. They're back in second place, three games behind the Brewers (52-39), half a game ahead of the Reds (48-42) and a game and a half ahead of the Pirates (47-43).