April powers: Cards continue to rain homers

April powers: Cards continue to rain homers

PHOENIX -- For three years, manager Mike Matheny has fielded questions about his club's power drought, and for three years, he's insisted a breakout is on the horizon. Those words suddenly have some muscle behind him.

On a night when Carlos Martinez dazzled from the mound, the offense powered away again. Two more long balls -- these supplied by Brandon Moss and Stephen Piscotty -- helped the club cruise to an 8-2 victory over the D-backs, with whom the Cardinals are tied with a Major League-leading 32 home runs.

This from a club that had fewer home runs over the last three seasons than every team except the Royals and Marlins.

"I still like the grind, but I've told you this before, I was a big fan of Earl Weaver and the three-run homer," Matheny said after his team's fourth straight game with at least two home runs and seven runs scored. "It's amazing how that does swing a game. I like the approach guys are taking, not that it's any different than the approach we had in the past. We want them to drive the ball all the time."

Moss' moonshot homer

Carried by their pitching a year ago, the offense has returned the favor this April. Consider that through 20 games in 2015, the Cardinals had 13 homers, a slugging percentage of .400 and a .731 OPS. In that same span, the Cardinals are slugging .504 with an .861 OPS this year.

Notable, too, is that the contributions are widely distributed. Eight different players have hit at least three home runs.

"In Spring Training, you definitely could see that we could put together a potent offense," said Piscotty, whose fourth homer of the season staked the Cardinals to a seven-run lead on Tuesday. "I think our team has been doing a good job of putting up good at-bats and hitting the ball hard. We'll keep rolling with that."

Though the Cardinals won the last three National League Central titles without much power output, their labor-intensive ways have been replaced by game-changing swings. They've already clubbed nine three-run homers -- at least four more than any other team -- after tallying 15 three-run homers all of last year.

In total, 17 of their 32 home runs have come with a runner on base, and the long balls have accounted for 46 percent of the Cardinals' scoring. That's 12 points higher than the team's '15 figure.

"I told you that we had guys who could hit home runs, and I stand by that," said Moss, who is tied for the team lead with five homers and 14 RBIs. "I think what I'm more surprised about is that there is a guy (Aledmys Diaz) hitting .500 in his first 50 at-bats in the big leagues. That's amazing."

The Cardinals' current power pace is likely untenable over the course of a 162-game season. But if they were to continue at this clip, the club would hit 259. No team has hit that many homers since '05, when the Rangers had 260. No Cardinals team has ever tallied more than 235.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.