For being such a young player, Kolten Wong has developed quite the penchant for coming through in clutch situations.
Wong’s two-out grand slam on a 3-2 pitch from Raisel Iglesias in the fourth inning gave the St. Louis Cardinals a 4-1 win over the Cincinnati Reds on Monday.
“I try to make sure I keep myself under control and put a good swing on it,” said Wong, whose 399-foot drive carried into the seats in right. “I think I should try to think the bases are full every at-bat. Maybe that would help. There’s something about just being in big situations. I tell myself to control my swing and control everything else.”
It was Wong’s second career grand slam, and his 11 homers are tied with Randal Grichuk for second-most on the team behind Jhonny Peralta’s 14. Wong hit a 14th-inning walk-off homer on May 3 to beat Pittsburgh 3-2.
“It was one of those where you hit it and you hit it with everything you’ve got, so if it doesn’t go out, it’s a tough time,” Wong said. “That was everything I had. ... Just judging the trajectory of the ball, I kind of had an idea it was going out. But it was a tough night. It was humid and the ball really doesn’t fly, so you’ve got to make sure you get it, and I did.”
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny continues to marvel at Wong’s overall development.
“Big at-bat,” Matheny said of the grand slam. “He’s an exciting player. Everything we’re seeing from him right now, offensively and defensively, there’s just a few people in the league at that position with that skill set that he has. He’s exciting to watch. We’re seeing more consistency, and that was one of the things we were hoping to see as this season went on.”
Matheny said Wong has no fear on the field.
“He’s not scared of (key situations) There’s no question,” Matheny said. “He gets in that big spot and he has a lot of faith in himself that he’s going to get it done. That typically comes from a guy who’s been around a little bit longer than Kolten. But he’s done it enough already to validate his confidence there. He’s a guy who’s maximized his opportunities.”
The game had one other key moment.
Lance Lynn (8-5) loaded the bases with no outs in the third, but the Reds managed to score only one run. The inning ended on a 6-4-3 double play, and Wong’s blast in the following inning permanently erased the Cardinals’ one-run deficit.
“That’s the game right there,” Matheny said of Lynn’s ability to limit the damage in the third. “Even though a run was given up ... that’s a momentum-shifter for us. Kolten pushed the momentum pretty well, also.”
Catcher Yadier Molina was lifted for pinch-hitter Tony Cruz in the fifth. Molina said he began to feel ill after being hit in the mask by Todd Frazier’s first-inning foul ball. Molina passed a concussion test and was feeling much better after the game.
“After the foul ball, my stomach started feeling bad,” Molina said. “I almost threw up. Right now, I feel way better. There’s nothing (wrong) with my head. It was just a foul ball. Sometimes when you’re a catcher, you’re going to get those foul balls. This was one of those.”
Lynn didn’t have his best stuff, but allowed just the one run on five hits in seven innings. He walked three and struck out five, throwing 115 pitches.
Lynn allowed a single to Brandon Phillips, hit Joey Votto with a pitch and walked Todd Frazier to load the bases. Jay Bruce had a sacrifice fly, but Brayan Pena grounded into a 6-4-3 double play. Bruce had been 14-for-28 with three home runs and 10 RBIs against Lynn in his career.
“Bases loaded with a guy that’s done damage on me and they only get one,” Lynn said. “He hits a sac fly and does his job, but I was able to get the next guy out for two. It was a good inning.”
“That was the game,” he said, adding that the inning “probably” would have gotten away from Lynn in the past. “But right now, he’s showing he’s mature and one of the leaders here.”