– by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief
NEW YORK — For the first eight innings on Sunday afternoon, the St. Louis Cardinals were only able to eke out a meager two hits against the New York Mets pitching staff.
Fortunately for them, they made those hits count in a big way.
Shortstop Paul DeJong continued to play the role of New York’s personal boogeyman, blasting a tie-breaking solo home run in the top of the eighth inning to lift the Cardinals to a 4-3 victory over the Mets, winning three of four in the series in Queens while ending their 10 game-road trip with wins in five of the last seven contests.
DeJong’s late heroics was St. Louis’ first hit of the game since Paul Goldschmidt smacked a two-run home run in the top of the first inning to start the scoring. While the Cardinals also took advantage of a a couple of walks and a defensive misplay from the Mets during the middle of the game, it was not decided until DeJong deposited a 3-1 slider from Mets reliever Chris Flexen into the left field bleachers with one out in the eighth to break a 3-3 tie.
“[The Mets] pitched around me early in the count, so that made me shrink the zone up even more. I got some good counts to hit,” said DeJong, who batted .412 (7-for-17) with three home runs and at least one RBI in each of the four games in the series. “They challenged me late, [and] I was ready.”
Today’s performance from the Cardinals’ third-year shortstop only cemented his status as a Met tormenter; DeJong now has nine career home runs in 20 career games against the Mets, including six homers in 11 career games at Citi Field. Overall, DeJong now sports a .361 batting average against New York in 83 career at-bats.
“Nothing in particular that comes to mind [about Citi Field],” DeJong said. “I just feel like I’ve gotten back into my approach this series, hit some balls hard, but didn’t try to do too much.”
Along with the two home runs, the Cardinals pushed across a run the fourth inning without the benefit of a hit. Goldschmidt and Jose Martinez started the inning with walks facing Mets starter Jason Vargas before shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria dropped a throw at second base from Vargas on a force play attempt off a ground ball from Dexter Fowler. With the bases loaded, Yadier Molina grounded into a 5-4-3 double play that plated Goldschmidt to tie the game.
In the bottom of the inning, Vargas, while batting, suffered a cramp in his left leg after swinging at a pitch and had to leave the game. New York’s bullpen combined to go five innings while allowing just two hits, walking one batter and striking out five.
New York answered Goldschmidt’s home run in the first inning by plating a run in the bottom of the inning, with J.D. Davis’s single to center driving home Dominic Smith, who doubled to lead off the inning.
The Mets took their only lead of the game in the third inning, rallying after the first two batters were retired. A double by Robinson Canó was followed by run-scoring singles by Hechavarria and Juan Lagares to give New York a 3-2 lead.
None of the three runs the Mets scored on Sunday came courtesy of the home run, breaking the franchise’s record of 19 consecutive home games with at least one homer recorded.
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Sunday afternoon’s game, with all photos taken by ALOST photographer Arturo Holmes. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 35 pictures in total.