Nolan Gorman hits first Major League home run

Nolan Gorman hits first Major League home run

ST. LOUIS — Having known each other and competed as teammates since they were 4 and 5 years old while playing National Youth Sports T-ball in the Phoenix area, Nolan Gorman has had numerous games in which he’s smashed home runs while lefty Matthew Liberatore you have starred on the mound.

But never, ever, they both said on a feel-good Saturday full of Major League firsts for the duo, could they have imagined something as monumental and downright unthinkable as what occurred for them in the Cardinals’ 8-3 defeat of the Brewers.

On the same day Gorman smashed the first home run of his young career, Liberatore pitched well enough over five innings to notch his first career victory. Just when they thought the odds of two lifelong friends making their MLB debuts a day apart they couldn’t be any more astronomical, they registered two firsts neither will soon forget. Their simultaneous rise and success at the Major League level is so unlikely and syrupy-sweet that even a Hollywood scriptwriter might consider it to be too far-fetched. However, this dream-like sequence is actually playing out right before their eyes at baseball’s highest level.

“It just keeps getting crazier,” Liberatore said. “He’s [homered on days when Liberatore has pitched] a lot of times because he’s hit a lot of home runs, but this is definitely the most memorable one.”

Paul Goldschmidt‘s white-hot hitting continued Saturday when he homered for a third straight game and extended his hitting streak (19 games) and his on-base streak (33 games) while also knocking in four runs. However, the storyline of the day was the simultaneous successes of the 22-year-old power-hitting second baseman and the 22-year-old dynamic left-handed pitcher in the same game.

Gorman, who entered an 0-for-11 rut with seven strikeouts, got surprisingly moved up to the No. 2 spot by manager Oliver Marmol. Gorman, the No. 2 prospect in the Cardinals’ system per MLB Pipeline, responded by going 4-for-4 with a home run, a double, two singles and four RBIs. The home run left the bat at 110.6 mph, and the others were also hard hit — 107.7 mph on his third-inning single; 96.9 mph on his fourth-inning double and 107 mph on his sixth-inning single when he needed a triple for the cycle.

“Yeah, the fences were a little shorter, but I’d say it’s happened quite a few times,” Gorman said of homering on the same day Liberatore pitched when they were teammates in youth ball, travel leagues and at Triple-A Memphis. “It’s pretty crazy. [Adam Wainwright] told us to be our own person, but it’s been a fun ride with [Liberatore]. It’s exciting and we want to keep it going.”

Liberatore, who fell short of five innings in his first start last week in Pittsburgh, was strong throughout Saturday. This time, the 6-foot-4 left-hander struck out three of the first five batters he faced by mixing his top pitch, his 12-to-6 curveball, and his 93-mph fastball. His most important moment of the day came in the fourth when the first two Brewers reached — namely, Mike Brosseau on a fielding error by Gorman. Liberatore responded by getting Keston Hiura to whiff on a fastball and retired Lorenzo Cain looking on a fastball on the inner half.

“Libby did a really nice job today and it seemed like the game was slow to him, which was nice to see,” Marmol said. “He pitched inside to righties really well, he used about 10 or 11 changeups and the curveball was a good player for him.”

Having debuted a day apart and recording a couple of milestone moments together on Saturday, it was only fitting that Gorman and Liberatore were celebrated simultaneously by their Cardinals teammates. Put into laundry carts and wheeled into the showers by teammates, the two rookies were showered with a number of edible liquids.

“I got pretty much everything, and I know I have applesauce in my ear,” Gorman said.

Added Liberatore: “Yogurt in my mouth, and I don’t know what else it was because my eyes were closed, but there was lots of stuff all over me.”

Gorman said clubhouse attendants were able to go up into the Busch Stadium crowd and retrieve the baseball that he smoked 449 feet for his first home run. For now, Gorman said, the ball will go to his parents, “until I have a house.”

As for Liberatore, he said he would be leaving Busch Stadium with something much more valuable than Gorman’s home run ball.

“The memory, that’s all I need,” he said with a toothy smile. “That’s good enough for me.”

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