Game Report: Cardinals 9, Blue Jays 4
By Rob Rains
The adjustments that Nolan Gorman knew he needed to make in his swing began in private off-season workouts, progressed through spring training and were on public display on the opening weekend of the season at Busch Stadium.
He knew he had to find a solution for not swinging at, and missing, fastballs at the top of the zone, the area of his game where Gorman struggled the most as a rookie in 2022.
Gorman is not ready to claim that he has mastered that part of his game, but through the Cardinals’ first three games of the season, he feels pretty good about the progress he has made.
Gorman hit two long home runs on Sunday, driving in four runs in the win over the Blue Jays.
“If I can do what I can to be selective in the pitches that I am swinging at, and know I am in a good spot to swing from, I think I can do some damage,” Gorman said. “It was something (swinging at the high pitches) that was there all last year.
“It’s a chess match and a game of adjustments. You’ve got to be able to realize what they (pitchers) are trying to do.”
Gorman’s first home run capped a three-homer first inning for the Cardinals, and he hit another two-run shot in the third for the second two-homer game of his career.
Manager Oli Marmol saw the results of Gorman’s off-season work this spring, and believes it will lead to more games like he had on Sunday.
“He had a really productive off-season where he was tasked with making some changes and immediately this spring you could see we had a different player,” Marmol said. “There’s a confidence to what he’s doing. It’s fun to watch.
“He knew the league exposed him at the top of the zone and he came in pretty confident about all of the work he put in. Now we’re seeing the benefits of all that work. He’s a really good example of somebody taking advantage of working at it.”
Here is how Sunday’s game broke down:
At the plate: The Cardinals pounded Toronto starter Chris Bassitt for 10 hits and all nine of their runs in 3 1/3 innings. The assault literally started on the first pitch, when Brendan Donovan homered, followed two pitches later by Alec Burleson’s home run. Gorman capped the inning with his first homer of the game … They finished the day with 16 hits, led by three from Burleson and Dylan Carlson, who started for the first time in the series, giving the Cardinals 41 hits to go with their 22 runs in the three games … Every starter had at least one hit for the second time in the series … Jordan Walker’s double in the seventh inning was the first extra-base hit of his career.
On the mound: Jordan Montgomery allowed three runs on six hits over his five innings of work, throwing 91 pitches. All of the runs scored in the span of five batters in the second inning. Montgomery retired seven of the last eight hitters he faced … The other Toronto run scored off Chris Stratton … Packy Naughton worked the final 2 1/3 innings, completing a series in which the Cardinals’ staff did not allow a home run to any of the 126 batters they faced.
Key stat: In the three-game series, Gorman was 4-of-9 with six RBIs and also drew four walks, reaching base eight times in 13 plate appearances while striking out only three times.
Worth noting: The last time the Cardinals hit three home runs in the first inning of a home game was on July 24, 2005, the final year of Busch Stadium 2. Abraham Nunez, Jim Edmonds and John Mabry all homered off Mark Prior of the Cubs … The back-to-back homers by Donovan and Burleson, the first two hitters in the first inning, marked the first time that had happened at home since Matt Carpenter and Carlos Beltran homered on April 26, 2013 … Neither Lars Nootbaar (thumb) or Giovanny Gallegos (back) was available on Sunday but Marmol said he hopes Gallegos will be able to pitch if needed on Monday night.
Looking ahead: The Cardinals will begin a three-game series against the Braves starting Monday night. Jake Woodford, who moved into the rotation because of an injury to Adam Wainwright, will start the opener.
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains