NEW YORK(AP) — Paul DeJong made the right decision to give up the scalpel, trumpet and piano to concentrate on baseball.
A rising star on the St. Louis Cardinals, the 24-year-old shortstop had the first multihomer game of his young big league career Sunday and helped the St. Louis Cardinals beat the New York Mets 5-1 to avoid an opening three-game sweep.
DeJong hit .285 with 25 home runs and 65 RBIs as a rookie last year, earning a $26 million, six-year contract. He had 13 homers at Triple-A Memphis before his major league debut on May 28 — when he homered off Colorado closer Greg Holland on his first big league swing.
“I know that I can consistently hit for power, whether it’s doubles or homers,” DeJong said.
A 2015 graduate of Illinois State who majored in biochemistry and pre-medicine, he was selected by the Cardinals in the fourth round of that year’s amateur draft. During spring training last month, when the Cardinals gave him the big contract, he attended several social events of the Palm Beach Symphony — not a regular nightlife stop of most big leaguers.
“I like all types of music, from Metallica to Chopin,” he said.
His younger brother Matthew is in a master’s program for piano at Florida State.
“He was always more devoted to music than I was,” DeJong said. “I played the piano, as well. Also the trumpet. But I stopped sophomore year in high school for the trumpet and a little earlier than that for the piano.”
DeJong sent a fastball from Steven Matz off the facing of the left-field second deck in the second inning and drove Jacob Rhame’s slider off an orange M&M advertisement just over the left-field wall in the eighth for his second solo homer.
“He’s dangerous,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “I won’t put a ceiling on him.”
DeJong was 9 for 12 in a series against the Mets just before last year’s All-Star break and is 15 for 41 versus New York with five doubles, six homers and eight RBIs overall. He is 3 for 3 with a pair of homers against Matz.
“I had two strikes on him and I left the ball right over the plate,” the lefty said.
Luke Weaver (1-0), a rare starting pitcher with a single-digit uniform number (7), struggled through a 27-pitch first inning in his first outing and gave up Amed Rosario’s tying single in the second. The 24-year-old right-hander, who last summer became the first Cardinals rookie to win seven straight starts since Ted Wilks in 1944, wound up allowing five hits in five innings, four of them singles.
“A grind is like the perfect definition of what it was,” Weaver said.
Marcell Ozuna broke out of an 0-for-9 start with three hits, including an RBI double in the third and a run-scoring single in the fifth.Yadier Molina hit a leadoff homer in the fourth for the Cardinals, outscored 15-6 in the first two games.
After solid starts by Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom, Matz (0-1) tried to put behind an injury-decimated sophomore season in which the lefty slumped to a 2-7 record. He struggled with his control and was up to 51 pitches after two innings and 73 after three. He lasted five innings, giving up three runs and four hits, as the Mets kept up their terrible trend of last year, when they were 16-36 in series finales.
“All three runs I gave up I had two strikes on the guys,” Matz said. “I was leaving the ball up a lot.”
In the Cardinals clubhouse after the game, there was loud, thumping music. DeJong hasn’t grooved to classical music yet for batting practice.
“I’ve thought about it. I just haven’t pulled the trigger. I don’t bring my headphones with me, usually,” he said. “I don’t like to get too far in my head with music. Sometimes that can happen.”