Moss' pinch-hit homer ties franchise record

Cards' 10th blast matches number set by 1998 club

Moss' pinch-hit homer ties franchise record

MILWAUKEE -- Though it meant little to the outcome aside from spoiling Milwaukee's shutout bid, Brandon Moss' solo homer in Wednesday's 3-1 loss added another pinch-hit blast to the Cardinals' growing season list.

With the team's 10th pinch-hit home run of 2016, the Cardinals, 54 games into their season, have already tied their franchise record, established by the 1998 club. They're also quickly closing in on the Major League record of 14, set by the 2001 Giants and 2001 D-backs.

"It's pretty cool," Moss said of hitting a piece of history. "Obviously, you'd like the one today to do something more than make it a two-run game. But at the same time, it's a testament to the fact that [manager] Mike [Matheny] keeps us really fresh. He mixes us in the lineup a lot so that we don't really lose our timing and we don't really lose our feel.

"A lot of teams have guys that are strictly there for pinch-hitting, and over the course of the season, that becomes really hard. I think Mike letting us get in there helps us keep our sense of timing."

The makeup of the Cardinals' roster has presented Matheny with opportunities for regular lineup shuffling, and that's given 10 different players an opportunity to already start at least 20 games.

"I think it just speaks to the depth that we have," Matheny said. "I think they have a better chance if they've had some game timing. It's hard to put them on the shelf completely and not get them consistent at-bats, and then expect them to come up in a big situation and have any kind of success. I think there's something to that."

Five different pinch-hitters have homered for the Cardinals this season. Jeremy Hazelbaker and Moss each have hit three. Adams has connected twice. Infielders Aledmys Diaz and Greg Garcia have gone deep off the bench once apiece. On that 1998 club, the Cardinals had pinch-hit homers from seven different players, including two from current hitting coach John Mabry.

The barrage of early-season power off the bench is made more remarkable with added context. Consider that 11 teams have yet to register a pinch-hit homer this year and that only one other has more than three. That's the Nationals, who have hit eight.

It's part of a broader power surge, too, by the Cardinals. After hitting 40 homers through their first 54 games in 2015, the Cardinals have logged 72 already this season.

But the team's pinch-hit success isn't feast or famine. Whereas that 1998 team posted a pinch-hit average of .235, this year's club has hit at a .372 clip after a 1-for-2 showing on Wednesday.

"Our offense, one through eight and off the bench, is really good," Moss said. "Right now, the record is what it is. But I think the depth of this team, over a long season, will show through. I think that's what is going to be the biggest thing for us."

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