ST. LOUIS – Rookie outfielder Jordan Walker delivered one of the biggest hits of his young professional career on Monday, a two-out, three-run triple that sparked a St. Louis Cardinals comeback victory.
“It’s a good feeling to go up like that late in the game,” said Walker with a big grin in postgame media comments Monday after a 7-5 win over the Oakland Athletics. “Super excited.”
Walker, a MLB-consensus Top 10 prospect entering the 2023 season, has earned the bulk of starts in right field since his callup in June, following an abrupt April demotion. Once riding the high of a 17-game hitting streak, Walker has cooled off a bit in August with just a .200 batting average over 11 games.
In need of an adjustment, Walker changed his approach from recent games and was rewarded with big results. The back-and-forth Cardinals affair began, however, began with some small ball.
Walker worked a five-pitch at-bat in the second inning and legged out an infield single on a ground ball to short. Moments later, he took off for second base on a pickoff attempt, avoided a tag attempt, and successfully swiped second base. The following pitch, Tommy Edman poked an opposite field single that scored Walker and gave the Cardinals an early lead.
Oakland took the lead in the fifth inning, then gave it back to St. Louis in the bottom of the frame. The Athletics then reclaimed the lead in the seventh. The Cardinals once again rallied from behind, largely thanks to Walker.
St. Louis worked four walks, including one with the bases loaded, to trim the deficit to 5-4. Then came up Walker with two outs.
Walker went up 3-0 in the count, then found himself quickly with a full count. After spoiling a few pitches foul, Walker lifted a fastball to the opposite field not fully knowing what might unfold next.
“I flicked my hands the other way and took it the other way,” recalled Walker. “I did everything I can to put that ball in play.”
Put the ball in play and good things happen, an old baseball adage goes. It wasn’t exactly the most graceful of hits, but by getting it in play, Walker got the job done. A fly ball popped out of the glove of sprinting A’s outfielder Seth Brown.
With two outs, everyone turned on the jets. Three runs scored. Walker hustled all the way to third base and dove in safely to beat a throw again. A loud crowd ovation and some genuine emotion from Walker followed.
Walker said the big hit, scored as his first MLB triple, was a confidence-builder. He credits his teammate for setting the tone. “It made it easy with guys getting on base for me,” said the rookie in an on-field interview with Bally Sports Midwest.
The 21-year-old Walker exhibited veteran behavior. He had watched some at-bats from reigning MVP Paul Goldschmidt earlier in the game and came to a few realizations: Wait for the best pitch and try to take it the other way.
“First year in the big leagues, I’m really excited and trying to do too much. Having to stay with my approach and not overswing is something I’ve learned,” said Walker.
His teammates and coaches took notice too.
“He’s been doing a great job all year,” said Goldschmidt. “We really need it, and a great job by him. It was a really good at-bat, with two strikes and being able to get that bases-clearing triple, that was a turning point in the game.”
“That’s a good moment for him and one he’ll build off of for sure,” said manager Oli Marmol. “You want him in those moments, and when he comes through, it’s awesome to see.”
Walker adds that avoiding the tag at second base was also important to give the Cardinals some early momentum.
“Two strikes, decided to go for it. Unlucky that I was picked off there, but I was trying to get around the tag,” said Walker. “He came over awkwardly, the second baseman fell over. I went to the outside of the base, and I got lucky.”
The Cardinals, now at 53-66, continue a three-game series with the last-place A’s (33-86) on Tuesday.