Gary Gaetti Ron Gant Ray Lankford

July 12, 1996: Gant, Gaetti pace Cardinals’ seven home runs in win over the Cubs

With 142 home runs in 162 games, the 1996 Cardinals weren’t exactly known for their power. But on July 12, the friendly confines of Wrigley Field couldn’t contain the St. Louis lineup as the Redbirds tied a 56-year-old team record with seven home runs in a 13-3 win over the Cubs.

Ron Gant and Gary Gaetti each hit two home runs and Ray Lankford, Brian Jordan, and John Mabry each added blasts as four of the six pitchers the Cubs used were taken deep. The power surge equaled the team record set on May 7, 1940, when Eddie Lake and Johnny Mize each hit two runs apiece to pace an 18-2 rout of the Dodgers and marked the first time the Cubs had allowed seven home runs in a game since the Dodgers did it to them in 1976.

“Seemed like no matter what I threw, they were hitting,” said Cubs starting pitcher Steve Trachsel, who allowed four of the Cardinals’ seven home runs. “They hit them high, they hit them low, they hit breaking pitches, fastballs, everything.”[1]

The Cardinals didn’t need the long ball to get the scoring started in the second inning. After Trachsel retired the side in order in the first, Jordan reached on an error. Mabry followed with a single to right and an error by Sammy Sosa allowed Jordan to score. An RBI single by Mike Gallego, newly returned from the disabled list, gave the Cardinals a 2-0 lead.

The home run barrage started in the third inning as Mabry hit a two-run homer and Gaetti followed with a solo shot over the left-field wall.

Cardinals starting pitcher Andy Benes allowed an unearned run in the third on an RBI double by Mark Grace, but St. Louis broke the game open in the fifth. Lankford and Gant hit back-to-back home runs to open the inning and chase Trachsel from the game.

“I know how good that young man is,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said of Trachsel. “I wouldn’t have bet a dime we’d hit one, much less seven, but the boys took care of our No. 1 strategy – get so far ahead that I can’t mess it up.”[2]

With Rodney Myers taking over on the mound for the Cubs, Jordan doubled and Gaetti hit a two-run blast – his second homer of the day – to make it 9-1.

In the sixth, Cubs reliever Tanyon Sturtze walked Lankford and Gant before allowing a three-run blast to Jordan. An eighth-inning home run by Gant gave the Cardinals a 13-1 lead before a Dave Magadan home run and an RBI double by Doug Glanville made it 13-3.

Mabry led the Cardinals with four hits on the day while Jordan and Gaetti each had three.

“He’s just a hungry hitter,” La Russa said of Mabry. “He doesn’t throw any at-bats away, whether he’s 3-for-4 or 0-for-4.”[3]

Benes, who had won just one of his first eight decisions since signing a free-agent contract with the Cardinals during the offseason, improved to 7-8 with the win. Over eight innings, he allowed two earned runs on nine hits and a walk.

“He’s getting a lot of payback for pitching well early in the season,” La Russa said. “He was pitching better than his record.”[4]

Dennis Eckersley pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning, striking out the final two batters he faced.

It was a forgettable outing for Trachsel, who allowed four of the Cardinals’ seven homers. He allowed six earned runs over four innings and fell to 7-6 on the season.

“One guy hits a homer with a one-armed swing, another guy hits a split-fingered pitch I had down in the zone,” Trachsel said. “I didn’t have good location on a lot of my pitches, but they were hitting balls they shouldn’t have been hitting and when that happens I tip my cap to them.”[5]

“When the wind is blowing out, even pop-ups can go out,” Mabry said. “Trachsel had good stuff, but he was just on the wrong side of the wind.”[6]

Incredibly, the Cardinals’ home run outburst represented almost 5% of their home runs for the season. Their 142 homers for the season ranked 23rd in the majors, 115 behind the Orioles and 35 below the league average. Gant led the Cardinals with 30 homers, followed by 23 from Gaetti and 21 from Lankford.

Despite their lack of home run production, the Cardinals went 88-74 to win the National League Central. They swept the Padres in a three-game National League Division Series before falling to the Braves in a seven-game National League Championship Series.

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[1] Associated Press, “Cards homer-happy against Cubs,” Decatur Herald and Review, July 13, 1996.

[2] Rick Hummel, “Cards Test Big-Bang Theory,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 13, 1996.

[3] Rick Hummel, “Cards Test Big-Bang Theory,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 13, 1996.

[4] Rick Hummel, “Cards Test Big-Bang Theory,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 13, 1996.

[5] Mike Kiley, “Cubs’ long day result of long ball,” Chicago Tribune, July 13, 1996.

[6] Associated Press, “Cards homer-happy against Cubs,” Decatur Herald and Review, July 13, 1996.

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