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Nolan Gorman homers, doubles in win vs. Nationals

ST. LOUIS — While most everyone in the clubhouse was fixated on Nolan Gorman going from a shaggy hairstyle to more of a high-and-tight look Tuesday, the slugging second baseman instead focused his attention on the work he’s been putting in and the motivational videos sent to him by fellow rookie Brendan Donovan.

Donovan, one of Gorman’s closest friends, was trying to find a way to shake his buddy out of a slump that, before Tuesday’s game, had seen him go 1-for-10 with six strikeouts since Aug. 31. Ultimately, Donovan dug up videos from 2020 when there was no Minor League season because of the pandemic, but the two of them were among a group of players working out at the Double-A Springfield complex. Those videos featured plenty of instances of the power-hitting Gorman smashing balls onto the roof of the workout facility beyond the right-field fence at Hammons Field.

As it turns out, the videos worked for both players, as Donovan homered for the first time in 2 1/2 months and Gorman blasted his 14th MLB home run and also smashed a double off the right-field wall. Their work helped the Cardinals bounce back from an unsightly loss Monday and beat the Nationals 4-1 on Tuesday at Busch Stadium.

“We’re talking every single day if we’re not at the field. We lean on each other quite a bit, and it’s been a good relationship to have,” Gorman said of his numerous sessions with Donovan. “He actually sent me some old videos from 2020 at the alternate site. Yeah, [the videos inspired him] a little bit.”

For Gorman, one of the most prized young players in the Cardinals’ system and someone they refused to deal when they were talking to the Nationals about a potential Juan Soto trade, his Tuesday home run was also significant for historical purposes. His 11th home run as a second baseman pulled him even with Kolten Wong for the most home runs by a rookie second baseman in franchise history. Also, Tuesday’s smash was the 11th time this season that Gorman homered with two strikes — tied for the fifth-most in the NL and tied for eighth-most in MLB.

Those kinds of numbers confirm what Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol believes will ultimately be the destiny of the rookie who has already racked up nine 400-plus-foot homers. Despite the up-and-down nature of Gorman’s first big league season, Marmol thinks Gorman will eventually become the centerpiece of the lineup.

“I’m not going to put a number to his average, but I think he’s a 30-plus homer guy,” Marmol said. “I think he has the ability to hit in the middle of the order. Obviously, there has been swing-and-miss in his game from Day 1, but he showed us the ability to cut down on the strikeouts in Triple-A. There will be growing pains because he’s young and there’s going to be swing-and-miss, but he’ll see the game differently and better.”

When looking at Gorman’s season in totality — he spent the first six weeks of the season at Triple-A Memphis and the rest has come with the Cardinals — he’s fared quite well. Sent down after a shaky Spring Training, Gorman forced the hand of the Cards by smashing 15 home runs and driving in 23 runs in 34 Triple-A games. Combine that with the 14 home runs and 35 RBIs he’s had in 83 games with the Cardinals, and Gorman has compiled 29 home runs and 58 RBIs in 117 games.

In his talks with his fellow rookie, Donovan said Gorman has reacted to the highs and lows of his season by putting in extra work in the batting cage with Cardinals hitting coach Jeff Albert. Throughout the season, Gorman has alternated between a leg lift, a toe-tap hybrid and a no-stride stance. What Gorman hasn’t done, Donovan said, is overreact to any situation.

“We hit together, we hang out and we talk. He’s an awesome person, it’s impressive what he can do, and I’m just happy for him,” Donovan said. “No panic with him. He’s showing up, and he made a couple of adjustments he was happy with and he doesn’t panic.”

As for his new haircut, Gorman was somewhat dumbfounded that there was so much attention from teammates, coaches and media about his new look. His only reasoning, he said, was because “it was just getting too long. This is kind of how I usually wear my hair.” When told that Donovan — who sports long curls down to the collar of his jersey — had no plans of getting his hair cut, Gorman offered up motivation just as his buddy had done for him with the inspirational videos from 2020.

“Why would he?” Gorman said of Donovan getting a similar haircut. “He hit a home run tonight, too.”

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