Matt Holliday added some lore to his St. Louis Cardinals career Friday night.
Batting for the first time since Aug. 11 because of a broken right thumb, Holliday cracked a pinch-hit home run to right in the seventh inning of the Cardinals’ 7-0 drubbing of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
It was Holliday’s first home run and RBI in his career as a pinch-hitter, and it came a few hours after the Cardinals activated him from the disabled list and announced they were not likely to exercise their $17 million option on Holliday for the 2017 season.
Holliday, who connected against Zach Phillips to make it 6-0, was greeted by Matt Carpenter at the plate, and the two shared a hug. Holliday, visibly moved, then embraced veteran Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright near the dugout before being met by manager Mike Matheny at the bottom of the steps.
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Holliday, who was too emotional to talk to reporters before the game, wasn’t feeling much different afterward. He dressed and departed without comment.
But others had plenty to say about the talented right-handed hitter who has spent the last 7 1/2 years with the Cardinals.
“I still have chills,” Matheny said. “It was amazing, very special.
“I know (the reaction of his teammates and the fans) meant a great deal to him, probably more than words can describe.”
With Holliday gone, reporters surrounded Wainwright, who playfully reminded them that he did not participate in the game.
“Where’s Matt?” Wainwright asked.
By then, Holliday was on the highway.
But Wainwright was his usual eloquent self in describing Holliday’s memorable moment.
“There’s something magical about it. You can’t make that stuff up,” Wainwright said. “Everybody in the dugout was saying, ‘Man, it would be so cool if he hits a home run right here.’ And he did it on an 0-2 pitch. You just don’t see that. It’s crazy.”
Holliday singled out Wainwright and Molina for their friendship in a statement that was circulated to the media before the game. While Holliday succumbed to tears after the home run, Wainwright said he, too, had difficulty fighting them back.
“I was choked up, for sure. Most everybody in the dugout was,” Wainwright said. “My comment after that ... I went over to Mike and I said, ‘So, that’s not his last at-bat? If he’s going to hit homers ... ‘ He just kind of looked at me.”
There’s something magical about it. You can’t make that stuff up. Everybody in the dugout was saying, ‘Man, it would be so cool if he hits a home run right here.’ And he did it on an 0-2 pitch. You just don’t see that. It’s crazy.
St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright on Matt Holliday’s pinch-hit home run
Holliday is batting .244 with 20 homers and 61 RBIs in 108 games. His home run gave the Cardinals six players with at least that many, tying the National League record with the Washington Nationals (2016), the Atlanta Braves (2003) and the Milwaukee Braves (1965). Anthony Rendon hit his 20th for the Nationals less than 30 minutes before Holliday.
The Cardinals, still needing wins in their final two games of the regular season against the Pirates, might turn to Holliday again. But if not, what a way to finish his St. Louis career.
“We’ll have to wait and see. Maybe his thumb will be good,” Wainwright said. “There’s not much better way to go out than that, but he’s still got years ahead (of him) playing, too. He’s not done as a baseball player. He’s potentially done as a Cardinal, but if you’re going to hit homers, you never know. Maybe he’s not done. It’s just starting something great, maybe.”
Jedd Gyorko and Brandon Moss also walloped home runs for the Cardinals, who remained one game behind the San Francisco Giants in the race for the final wild-card spot. The Cardinals must win Saturday to avoid possibly being eliminated.
Gyorko’s 29th homer of the season, against Tyler Glasnow, made it 1-0 in the third. Moss’ two-run blast against Trevor Williams, his 28th of the season, ended a dreadful 7-for-97 skid and put the Cardinals on top 5-0.
That was pretty cool. Obviously, you could tell how emotional Holly was, and Yadi and Waino, the guys who have played with him a lot longer than I have. I’ve only been with him for a year. You could tell everyone was pretty emotional about it and it was pretty cool.
Cardinals infielder Jedd Gyorko on Holliday’s homer
Gyorko enjoyed Holliday’s emotional journey around the bases.
“You can’t make that stuff up. That was pretty cool,” Gyorko said. “Obviously, you could tell how emotional Holly was, and Yadi and Waino, the guys who have played with him a lot longer than I have. I’ve only been with him for a year. You could tell everyone was pretty emotional about it and it was pretty cool.
“I’m not real sure how he even saw the ball, to be honest. It was a pretty good send-off.”
Carlos Martinez (16-9) threw seven shutout innings and struck out nine. Martinez has established himself as the Cardinals’ No. 1 starter and will get the ball if they’re fortunate enough to advance to the NL wild-card game against the New York Mets on Wednesday.
Martinez dedicated his performance to late Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez.
“I feel really happy. I’m really pleased with my starts the entire year,” the 25-year-old Martinez said. “I stayed healthy and I did really great. I’ve never pitched this way. I feel comfortable. It’s not only a physical thing, but being comfortable in my skin and being able to go out there and do my best.”