Cards set new franchise mark for 20-HR hitters
ST. LOUIS – Two swings put the Cardinals into the record books Wednesday night.
Third baseman David Freese and catcher Yadier Molina both homered in the Cardinals' 3-0 win over the Houston Astros, giving both players 20 home runs for the season.
And with both players reaching the 20 home run plateau, the 2012 Cardinals became the first team in franchise history to have five players with 20 home runs in the same season.
The Cardinals previously had four seasons in which they had four players reach 20 home runs – 1998, 2001, 2004 and 2008 – but Wednesday marked the first time a fifth player joined the group.
"That's a stat I didn't know," said manager Mike Matheny. "I'm excited for Yadi and obviously David, both of them are having terrific seasons, but that's a pretty impressive statistic in the long, rich tradition and history here. That's pretty impressive.
"There's not a lot of room to relax and take a breath. I think that's the kind of team we've been. We've been a team that puts it in people's minds that if you back off for a second, we've got quite a few guys here that can put the ball over the fence."
Outfielder Carlos Beltran leads the Cardinals with 29 home runs while Matt Holliday is second with 27 and Allen Craig is third with 21. Next on the list is Matt Carpenter, who has six.
Freese launched a two-run shot to right center in the second inning to put the Cardinals up 2-0. Last year's NLCS and World Series MVP has followed up a breakout postseason with the best regular season of his career, hitting .293 with 20 home runs and 78 RBI.
"When you've never reached it and you're a guy trying to solidify himself, I think that's the number that everybody else looks at," Freese said. "It's nice to get to that number for sure. We have a good number of guys that have 20 or more. It's fun to be a part of.
"We have an offense that can do a lot of good things and I don't think we've all clicked at the same time all year. It's nice when you have guys that can cover for everybody else at times when guys are struggling. I've been fighting it here and there but this one tonight felt good."
Molina hit a towering solo shot into the left field bleachers in the fourth inning to make it 3-0. He becomes the first Cardinals catcher to hit at least 20 home runs in a season since Ted Simmons hit 21 in 1980.
The 20 home runs are easily a career best for the All-Star catcher, who hit 14 last year but didn't hit more than eight in any of his previous seven seasons in the big leagues.
"I can't lie, I feel so good," Molina said. "I've never hit 20 before. It does feel good and to get the win it feels better. It was a good night for the Cards.
"We have some guys who can hit the baseball far. We are having a good year. People complain about us being in second place in the division but we're playing good. Right now we're two games up on the wild card and anything can happen. I don't doubt anybody here. We have a pretty good offense."
Only two other teams – the Baltimore Orioles and Chicago White Sox – currently have five players with at least 20 home runs.
The Cardinals had five players hit at least 19 home runs during their World Series winning season in 2006, but two players – Jim Edmonds and Juan Encarnacion – finished with 19. Albert Pujols led the Cardinals with 49 home runs that year while Scott Rolen and Chris Duncan each hit 22.
Molina needs two RBI to give the Cardinals five players with at least 70 RBI.
The Cardinals hold a two game lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers for the second wild card spot in the National League with 13 games remaining.