ST. LOUIS -- An inning after his aggressive approach backfired as he swung at three pitches outside the strike zone, Kolten Wong was reminded that there is also payoff with the power he packs into his compact swing.
Determined to make Reds starter Raisel Iglesias throw something over the inside part of the plate, Wong worked a six-pitch at-bat until he found a fastball to feast on. He lined the 3-2 pitch into the Cardinals' bullpen for a grand slam (the second of his career), which turned out to be all the Cardinals got or needed in a 4-1 win over the Reds on Monday.
"Pretty much the entire game he threw, he was living off the fastball and throwing everything else off of it," Wong said afterward. "I told myself, 'Don't be beat by the fastball. If he throws anything else, try to adjust. But make sure you're out in front and try to hit it hard.'"
And of his swing?
"That's everything I had."
Wong's home run was key in helping the Cardinals salvage something from a fourth-inning rally that was rapidly fading. The Cardinals opened the inning with consecutive hits and loaded the bases with one out. But starter Lance Lynn went down swinging, leaving Wong as the only obstacle in Iglesias' way of maneuvering out of trouble.
It was the sort of big moment that Wong has met with a mighty swing several times before. He delivered a 14th-inning walk-off home run to down the Pirates in May, and tied an extra-inning game against the Mets eight days ago with a blast in the 13th inning. And of course there were his three postseason blasts last October, one of which ended a National League Championship Series game against the Giants.
"I try to make sure I keep myself under control and put a good swing on it," Wong said of his approach in those key spots. "I think I should try to think the bases are full every single at-bat. Maybe that would help. There's something just about being in big situations where I tell myself to be under control with my swinging and everything as else."
The game-winning RBI was Wong's seventh of the season, third most on the team behind only Jhonny Peralta and Matt Carpenter. His 11 home runs rank second on the club and are just one short of his 2014 total. Wong's grand slam on Monday was the first by a Cardinals leadoff hitter since 2010.
"He gets in that big spot and he has a lot of faith in himself that he's going to get it done," manager Mike Matheny said. "That typically comes with a guy who has been around a little bit longer than Kolten. But he's done it enough already to validate his confidence there. We want everybody feeling good in those spots, but I think you have to have a little success in order to feel like you're ready for the bigger spot in the game, and he's a guy who has maximized his opportunities."