PITTSBURGH -- A Cardinals offense that came to be known for its labor-intensive ways last season has powered up of late, showcasing the game-changing ability of one timely swing -- something they lacked so often a year ago.
The club's recent run of 10 wins in 11 days has been boosted by the long ball. The Cards hit at least one homer in six of those victories and have picked particularly opportune times to go deep. There was Kolten Wong's walk-off blast to sink the Pirates on Sunday, and then a grand slam by Mark Reynolds to help pull the club out of a five-run hole in an eventual one-run win on Monday.
Matt Carpenter's three-run blast on Tuesday erased another Chicago lead, and on Friday, Matt Holliday delivered a go-ahead blast and Wong the necessary cushion to seal an 8-5 win over the Pirates. Those came after a monstrous blast from Jhonny Peralta that was estimated to have traveled 441 feet to center.
"That's big for us, especially playing all these guys in the division now," Wong said of the homer surge. "Separating ourselves is huge, and we're doing it against really good teams. It's really good for us. … There really isn't one guy who can't hit a home run. We're just pushing through."
The Cardinals, who ranked last in the National League with 105 homers last season, are sandwiched in the middle of the NL pack and on pace to hit 123. They've already had as many three-homer games (two) this year as they did last season, though the one in 2014 didn't come until July.
The Cardinals' power manifested itself not just in home runs on Friday, but in the bundle of extra-base hits they collected. There were seven in total, more than they have had in any game since April 30, 2014.
"We know we have guys who can do that," manager Mike Matheny said. "You look all the way through that order, and there are guys with power and the ability to change the game. … It's just a matter of getting in a good groove and swinging at good pitches in areas we're looking."
Three years ago, the Cardinals featured five 20-homer players for the first time in franchise history. Last season, only two (Holliday and Peralta) reached that benchmark. This year's lineup hasn't shown itself to be reliant on the home run, but able to more frequently change the game with it. And so far, that's been the ideal balance.
"You look at the depth of the lineup, potentially, if everybody is swinging the bat well," Matheny said. "There's just not a lot of places to take a break."