ST.LOUIS -- Matt Adams is known for his bat. The free-swinging first baseman is in the middle of a productive season at the plate, forcing manager Mike Matheny to keep him in the lineup.
And although he doesn't often make spectacular plays, his value as a hitter is yielding more stability in the field, and he showed it on Wednesday night in the Cardinals' 4-1 loss to the Astros.
Adams started two double plays -- one more than his total from last season -- made a slick sliding catch and is fielding at a .988 clip.
"I feel as if it's gotten better over the years," Adams said. "I've been paying close attention to some things and working on them and just going out there and playing the game hard."
The consistent fielding has complemented his strong offensive start; he is hitting .311, with nine home runs and 33 RBIs. In two more games near this point last season, he was hitting .240, with five home runs and 24 RBIs. Yet he has the same amount of assists and only one more error.
Adams credits bench coach David Bell and first-base coach Bill Mueller for his improvement and has also spoken with former infield coach Jose Oquendo about things he could do better in the field.
"It's just being aggressive with digging the ball out of the dirt and just making sure I get my feet in the right spot and go from there," he said.
It wasn't just one astonishing play that made Wednesday night notable, it was three instances that required quick thinking. In the first inning, he leaped to catch a high bounce off the bat of Astros catcher Jason Castro, threw to shortstop Aledmys Diaz for the force at second base and then hustled back to first to catch the return throw for the 3-6-3 double play.
In the sixth inning, he slid to catch Jose Altuve's foul ball near the Cardinals' dugout, and he followed that up in the seventh when he fielded a Colby Rasmus grounder, stepped on first for the out and threw to Diaz, who tagged out Carlos Correa running to second to conclude the string of staggering defensive plays.
"I've watched him play now for three years, and I think he's underrated as a defender," Greg Garcia said. "You watch him field during batting practice, and he's as smooth as they come. He's got great hands and great feet. Because of his size and how big and strong he is, he kind of gets overlooked on that aspect. He's a very good defender. He's a great athlete, he does it all well."