Jason Heyward showed the depth of his talent Saturday.
The right fielder hit the St. Louis Cardinals’ first home run this season at Busch Stadium and added a highlight-reel catch in a 5-2 victory over Cincinnati.
“It was a good day,” said Heyward, in his first season in St. Louis. “It’s good to contribute and help on both sides. It’s good to get runs up against a team like that because they can score runs in a hurry. It’s good not to let them get momentum back the very next inning.”
Heyward connected in the third inning against right-hander Homer Bailey, driving an 0-1 fastball into the Cardinals’ bullpen in right to put St. Louis ahead 2-0. The capacity crowd of 45,906 wouldn’t stop cheering until Heyward emerged and took a bow on the dugout steps.
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In the bottom of the third, Heyward dived to take away a hit from Marlon Byrd, showing the skills that have made him a two-time Rawlings Gold Glove award-winner.
“He’s having a nice start for us,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “He’s hit the ball better than what his average indicates right now. He’s putting together some really good at-bats.
“Then he has a great play after he has his curtain call. He almost had a second curtain call from the defensive side. It was a good day for Jason.”
Heyward’s homer came in the Cardinals’ 144th at-bat at home. Matheny didn’t necessarily buy into the theory that it was good, specifically, for Heyward to get No. 1 out of the way.
“I hadn’t thought about it one time,” Matheny said. “Same way with a couple of other guys who are going to hit home runs. As it becomes an issue or an item of conversation internally, I think that just takes us further from these guys going about their swing the right way.
“(Heyward) has had a couple of balls he’s hit well that had the right trajectory. He’s got pop. The ball’s going to carry for him.”
Heyward is only hitting .227 (10-for-44), but neither he nor the Cardinals believe that is an indication of the way he’s been swinging the bat.
“It happens sometimes,” Heyward said. “It’s part of it. But yeah, I feel like I’ve hit some balls hard that could have very easily been hits. I’ll stay with it and keep plugging away. They’ll start to fall.”
It was the fourth consecutive victory for the Cardinals (7-3), who have won their last 14 three-game series against the Reds.
Carlos Martinez registered his first victory of the season, allowing one run (earned) on three hits in six innings. He walked two and struck out four, his only mistake coming in the fifth when Zack Cozart homered on a 93-mph fastball to make it 3-1. Martinez threw 86 pitches, 53 for strikes.
Just last Sunday, Martinez also worked six innings and allowed two runs in a no-decision against the Reds in Cincinnati. Facing them again in such a short time didn’t prove to be a hindrance.
“I tried to do the same thing I did the first time,” said Martinez, whose effectiveness with his slider and changeup largely kept the Reds off his fastball. “I tried to get the ball low, throw my pitches for strikes. I felt much better. I felt confident.”
Matheny called it pitching.
“He was manipulating it a little bit today,” Matheny said. “He backed off at times because I think he saw he had better control and better movement when he was off his max effort. That’s a huge step that’s hard to get a young player to take. It comes also with having some effectiveness in those swinging counts, to have a secondary pitch going.”
Matt Holliday’s two-out double and Matt Adams’ RBI single made it 1-0 in the first against Bailey, making his season debut. Holliday, who extended his hitting streak to 10, left the game with a sore back after the first.
Heyward’s homer made it 2-0, and Yadier Molina smoked an RBI double to right-center to make it 3-0 in the fourth. After Cozart homered in the fifth, Matt Carpenter’s two-run double in the sixth made it 5-2. Carpenter has six straight multihit games.
Cincinnati got within 5-2 in the eighth on Jay Bruce’s RBI single against Randy Choate, a run charged to Seth Maness. Trevor Rosenthal picked up his fourth save with a scoreless ninth, stranding two runners when he caught Joey Votto looking at a called third strike.