In sync, dynamic duo Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt fuel Cardinals’ ‘big cowboy energy’ | Derrick Goold: Land of Birds

PHOENIX — To the list of things Nolan Arenado has eagerly and urgently wanted to experience for the first time in his career, from winning a division crown to playing alongside Albert Pujols to having synchronized success with Paul Goldschmidt, add one you didn’t know it was. lost.

The fit of that first cowboy hat.

“I had never worn a cowboy hat,” he admitted Friday.

His teammate Miles Mikolas remedied that before the charter flight Thursday night. The right-hander suggested that the team dress in Western style for the trip to Arizona, and his teammates were enthusiastic about it. Printed buttons, jeans, large belt buckles, and larger belt buckles all came out. Realizing the last-minute nature of his idea, Mikolas ran to a store in St. Louis and bought black cowboy hats for Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina and the Stetson rookie Arenado.

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The infielder, who played eight years in Colorado without a cowboy hat or a division title, liked him enough to get back at Mikolas. Another marked life experience. He is herding them all together.

Arenado had four hits, including three doubles, as the Cardinals outscored Arizona, 5-1, to open a four-game lead in the NL Central. With an early lead in that division title, Arenado had his most hits in the cleanup, one spot ahead of Pujols and one spot behind Goldschmidt, who homered as one of his three hits. About a year after Arenado pondered what might happen if he and Goldschmidt were on a hot streak, he no longer has to wonder.

“I feel like it’s been a year and a half in the making,” Arenado said. “Last year, we never had the right time. At the beginning of the year, we didn’t. In the last few months, it seems like we’ve been hitting together, obviously good things happen when we do that.”

Goldschmidt and Arenado combined to drive in or score all five of the Cardinals’ runs in their fifth straight victory. Mikolas authored six scoreless innings with a 1-0 lead provided by Goldschmidt’s first-inning home run, his 30th home run of the season. Arenado sparked the rally during the Cardinals’ four-run seventh inning with a two-run double, his third double of the game. Arenado’s two RBIs echoed Goldschmidt’s two RBIs. Goldschmidt rushed home with a pass for the Cardinals’ five-run lead.

On his way to eight innings, Mikolas (10-9) allowed three runners before the seventh, and none of them advanced a base further than a double-hitter, walk or hit caught him. The only run Mikolas allowed came on a fly ball and scored on a groundout. No other Diamondback reached third base against him. All hat, no rattle.

“As a team, we had a lot of cowboy energy,” Mikolas said. “The goal was to grab the bull by the horns and head out on that dusty road. … Stampede down the homestretch.”

Mikolas agreed, belt buckles aside, these jeans finally have a swagger.

He tracked him down to the trade deadline, when the Cardinals acquired two starting pitchers and dispelled any doubts about who would be traded from the clubhouse. Since then, the Cardinals have swept the Yankees, winning 13 of 16 and have given up nine straight starts with two or fewer rotation runs allowed. Oh, and the stars have also aligned in the lineup. While Pujols has grabbed headlines by closing in on 700 career home runs, all Arenado and Goldschmidt have done is become the most dynamic duo in the majors.

They’ve already swapped player of the month awards this season, and in the 16 games after the trade deadline they’re harmonizing the MVP choirs.

With four hits on Friday, Arenado raised his average to .349 this month. Three hits in four at-bats raised Goldschmidt’s average since Aug. 2 to .407. Combined after the deadline, the Cardinals’ corner infielders have hit .376 with an .803 slugging percentage, 29 runs scored and 35 RBIs. They have nearly as many home runs (12) as strikeouts (17) in their last 117 consecutive at-bats in the Cardinals’ lineup.

“I think there’s a lot of confidence that both guys know there’s nowhere to run,” manager Oliver Marmol said. “If you don’t want to pitch to one of them, you have to take on the other. And if we go up against a southpaw, you have protection with Albert behind that. I think they all feed off each other.”

Like Mikolas, Arenado followed the fuse until the trade deadline.

“Once the deadline was over, I think everyone felt like it was time to get going,” Arenado said. “Just thinking about winning. That is all. Without worrying if they are going to change for someone or not. Rumors of (Juan) Soto. Everybody sees it. You can’t help but think about it. It was good to get it all out of the way and just focus on winning ballgames, and that’s all we’re trying to do.”

Filling the box scores together starts with the constant conversations Arenado and Goldschmidt have before games, during games and after games. Arenado said “just being around him has made me a better hitter” because the third baseman has “copied” what Goldschmidt does to prepare. One of the things Goldschmidt studies on video is the pitcher’s arm slot, and now so does Arenado.

Against Arizona rookie left-hander Tommy Henry, they traded points of view during Friday night’s game and discussed what they could expect to see based on what Henry had shown in his fourth major league appearance.

What Henry and the Diamondbacks saw was Goldschmidt hitting a home run, Goldschmidt walking and Goldschmidt stealing hits. Back in Phoenix for the third time since Arizona traded him to the Cardinals in December 2018, Goldschmidt had footprints in every facet of the game. He started the scoring with a home run. He helped keep a rally going with his baserunning. And he turned Mikolas’s plummet into outs with his glove.

“He’s just playing at another level right now,” Arenado said. “In my opinion, this year, he’s the best player in the game, and I don’t think he’s even close. I think we take it for granted because he’s raking all year. Sometimes we have to sit back and appreciate how good he is.”

Even in acting, almost.

In the first inning, Goldschmidt delivered a three-ball pitch from Henry that was just outside the strike zone. Goldschmidt took a step toward first base as if he freely accepted it. Arizona wide receiver Carson Kelly, a centerpiece of the package the Cardinals traded for Goldschmidt, requested an appeal and received the strike penalty. Goldschmidt retired to the box with a full account. He put the next pitch into the left field seats. Instead of walking, he took a jog.

“It’s funny how it works,” Goldschmidt said. “I knew it was a 50-50 decision. I was trying to sell it a little bit. He called it a swing. I was upset because I swung. He made a good pitch. So (I) tried to prepare for that 3-2. It’s funny how it worked.”

As he rounded third and headed toward home plate, he called home for the first eight years of his career, “MVP! MVP!” the chants followed.

They also serenaded him every at-bat.

When he singled in the second run of the game: “MVP! MVP!”

When he scored the fifth run or had a third hit: “MVP! MVP!”

“People are yelling at you that you suck too,” Goldschmidt said. “Before every at-bat, whatever the fans yell. you stink Or we love you.

Or MVP, a reporter chimed in.

“Or that,” Goldschmidt admitted, then changed the conversation.

In the decisive seventh-inning rally, Yadier Molina singled to give him 2,151 career hits, one more than Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra. Young outfielders Lars Nootbaar and Dylan Carlson followed with a walk and a single, respectively, to load the bases. The inning, as so many innings do, found Goldschmidt, and he produced a key run on a hard ground ball that went wide of the pitcher.

That kept the bases loaded for Arenado, who said an hour later that it was an opportunity to “pick it up sometimes.”

That opportunity comes with the spot in the order, a role Arenado has long thrived in. He gets to get his best swing in with the hitter who says he’s the best in the game and see what he’s like when they’re at his best. . He knows what that looks like. He must trust his teammates and his opinion on how the cowboy hat fits.

“I felt pretty good,” Arenado said of her new addition to fashion. “I looked good. They were excited about it.”

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