ST. LOUIS -- Kolten Wong had skipped batting practice on Monday morning, instead spending time having his memory tested by another doctor to rule out concussion concerns. He picked up a bat a few hours later, taking some in-game swings to see if a stiff neck would hinder him. Wong then found manager Mike Matheny and told him he was ready.
"He wasn't lying," Matheny said later.
A day after scaring the Cardinals when he landed hard on his head while going after a ball in the outfield, Wong delivered a game-tying pinch-hit home run with a stiff neck to help the Cardinals to a 5-4 win over the Pirates.
"You've got to just kind of basically push that out and just be like, 'I've got to get in there and I've got to do my best to try and help this team somehow,'" Wong said. "That first swing kind of shocked me because I didn't feel that pain [earlier]. But I just kind of stood back and was like, 'Hey, suck it up and let's go.'"
After swinging through two of Gerrit Cole's fastballs and taking a slider in the dirt, Wong drove a 96-mph pitch into the club's bullpen. It gave Wong homers in consecutive games for the third time this season and broke a homerless spell by Cardinals pinch-hitters that dated to August 2013.
"He's got sneaky power," Matheny said. "It's usually when he's isn't trying to lift and separate that good things happen for him. It was a great at-bat and perfect timing."
Though Wong passed all those pregame tests, Matheny chose to keep Wong out of the lineup for precautionary reasons. Wong's replacement, Pete Kozma, contributed a single just ahead on Wong's pinch-hit at-bat.
With his 11th homer, Wong moved into a second-place tie with Philadelphia's Chase Utley for most homers by National League second basemen. Pittsburgh's Neil Walker leads with 18.
"It's up there because it puts us in sole possession of first place, and that's huge for us, especially this late in the season," Wong said of the importance of Monday's blast. "I was definitely excited about it and really pumped about it. Everybody on the team was excited to tie this game up. It's awesome because we ended up winning it."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less