DeJong's complete performance sparks Cards

Shortstop has two hits, two walks, a steal and makes critical play

April 10th, 2019

ST. LOUIS -- His swing may not be as majestic as ’s ahead of him or as violent as ’s behind him, but has achieved the one objective that has been mostly elusive in the Cardinals’ offense: consistency.

The three-hole hitter continued his steady start by extending a pair of run-scoring rallies, scoring twice and reaching base four times in Tuesday’s 4-0 win over the Dodgers. His impact carried over onto the defensive side, too, as he preserved a scoreless outing for starter Dakota Hudson by turning a line drive into a key double play.

It was the perfect embodiment of what DeJong hopes to become this year -- a combination of the offensive threat he was as a rookie in 2017 with the standout shortstop he became in his sophomore season. Sprinkle in the plate discipline he showed while drawing a pair of walks, and the speed he flashed while swiping his first base, and by the end of the night Tuesday he had impressed in nearly every possible facet.

“I’m still growing as a player and trying to learn as much as I can,” said DeJong, who became the first Cardinals player since Ray Lankford (1996) with two doubles, two walks and a stolen base in a game. “Try to expand my game with the stolen bases and the elite defense. I know what my capabilities are at the plate, so for me it’s just about going out there and letting it happen and trusting my preparation and just being confident that I have fast hands and that no one can get a fastball by me.”

He’s riding a career-best 10-game hitting streak after Tuesday’s two-hit performance and tops the Cardinals with eight extra-base hits. DeJong has doubled in three straight games, tying his career best, and hit multiple doubles in a game for the third time in his career.

The first, his two-out double off Ross Stripling, helped extend the opening inning to , who then connected for the first of his two RBI doubles. DeJong scored on the next one as well.

“This kid can do it all,” Molina said afterward. “He can pick it. He can swing it. He can run the bases. I’m just happy for the great start that he’s had.”

Neither DeJong nor manager Mike Shildt discount the impact of lineup placement when it comes to DeJong’s strong start. Hitting behind Matt Carpenter, who sees an average of 4.70 pitches per plate appearance, and Goldschmidt, whose average is 4.91, has afforded DeJong the opportunity to scout pitchers and pounce if they’ve worn down.

It’s the sort of benefit Shildt envisioned when he decided to open the year with DeJong as his three-hole hitter.

“Paul is continuing to grow and evolve in his game,” Shildt said. “He’s taking good at-bats, and he’s letting the game come to him. He’s getting a lot more pitches in the zone to swing at, which he’s doing some damage with. And when you start doing damage in the zone, guys are going to pitch you a little different.”

While DeJong proved a pesky opponent to Dodgers pitching all night, his defensive gem was equally critical. With Hudson tiptoeing around trouble all night as he faced an offense that had scored more runs (87) in its first 11 games than any Dodgers team since 1887, DeJong helped the rookie starter thwart a rally in the third.

Shaded slightly toward the middle as the left-handed-hitting Cody Bellinger stepped to the plate with two runners on, DeJong found himself perfectly positioned to snare the 96.8 mph line drive Bellinger whizzed past Hudson. He then ran to second to double off Joc Pederson and end the inning.

“I just made a good reaction,” DeJong said. “Obviously, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the runner take off, so I knew I had an easy double play. It was just more about catch.”