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Cardinals' show their clout in NLCS Game 2

10/16/2014
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

To say that the 2014 St. Louis Cardinals were not a home run hitting team during the regular season would be a gross understatement. St. Louis’ 105 home runs ranked last in the National League, and 29th overall in the majors, only ahead of the Kansas City Royals with 95. That was the lowest home runs total by a Cardinals team in the wild-card era, which includes the shortened 1995 season. But few teams have been more adept at hitting home runs in the postseason -- at least so far this October -- than St. Louis.

This postseason the Cardinals are launching one home run every 17 at-bats, which more than three times more frequently than their rate of one home run every 52 at-bats during the regular season.

Best Postseason AB per HR Rate

Matt Carpenter started off Sunday’s long ball barrage with his third-inning blast off of perennial Cardinals postseason victim Jake Peavy. The solo shot was the fourth of this postseason by Carpenter in his 22nd at-bat. He hit eight home runs in 595 at-bats during the regular season.

Carpenter’s four home runs are tied with fellow Missouri third baseman Mike Moustakas for the most this postseason. All four of those came as a leadoff hitter, which ties him with Carl Crawford for third most in any postseason by a leadoff hitter. Crawford hit his for the Dodgers last season. Another Dodger, Davey Lopes hit five home runs from the leadoff spot in 1978, which is one behind Lenny Dykstra’s six leadoff home runs for the 1993 Phillies.

Next to join the home run parade was Oscar Taveras, who became the second-youngest Cardinal to hit a postseason home run by depositing a Jean Machi pitch down around the right-field foul pole. Only 21-year old Albert Pujols, who took Randy Johnson deep in Game 2 of the 2001 National League Division Series, was a greener Redbird than the 22-year-old Taveras.

Taveras was pinch-hitting for reliever Carlos Martinez when he hit the game-tying shot, becoming the first player in Cardinals postseason history with a game-tying or go-ahead pinch-hit home run.

The seventh inning has been disproportionately productive for the Cardinals this postseason. The team has scored 23 total runs, 14 in the stretch inning.

The eighth inning brought more heroics as Matt Adams stepped to the plate against hard-throwing Hunter Strickland. Adams went down 1-2 in the count but ripped Strickland’s offering 394 feet into the sea of red. Adams was the batter who sank Clayton Kershaw with a seventh-inning, three-run shot in the Cardinals’ NLDS Game 4 comeback victory. With that second swing Adams became the first player with two go-ahead homers in the seventh inning or later in a postseason since David Ortiz in 2004, according to Elias Sports Bureau research.

Adams’ home run was the fourth that Strickland has allowed in four postseason appearances. In 50 appearances during the regular season in the minors and majors combined, Strickland allowed three home runs.

But closer Trevor Rosenthal couldn’t hold the lead, surrendering the game-tying run on a wild pitch that allowed pinch runner Matt Duffy to speed around from second base.

However in the bottom of the ninth, Kolten Wong, who until Sunday was best remembered for getting picked off first base to end Game 4 of the 2013 World Series, hit the fourth St. Louis home run of the night, a walk-off job, to even up the series.

Wong became the fourth Cardinal to walk-off with a home run, joining David Freese in the bottom of the 11th inning against the Rangers in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series, Jim Edmonds in the 12th inning of Game 6 of the 2004 NLCS against the Astros and Ozzie Smith in the bottom of the ninth off Dodgers closer Tom Niedenfuer in the 1985 NLCS.

Wong also became just the fourth second baseman to end a postseason game with a home run, joining Jeff Kent in the 2004 NLCS for the Astros, Alfonso Soriano in the 2001 ALCS for the Yankees and Bill Mazeroski, who hit one of the most famous home run in baseball history, in Game 7 of the 1961 World Series for the Pirates.