Shift helps Wong rack up career-high 10 assists
Cards frustrate Howard with effective use of defense
ST. LOUIS -- The Phillies' left-handed lineup kept Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong especially active in Wednesday's 5-2 win. He finished with a career-high 10 assists, also the most of any player in the Majors this season.
He also made it a particularly frustrating night for Ryan Howard, who may have finished with his 12th career four-hit night had the Cardinals not employed such a successful defensive shift against him.
"No, I don't like it at all," said Howard, who has grown accustomed to seeing four infielders on the right side of the infield when he steps to the plate. "That's four hits. I mean, again, it's nothing that I'm doing wrong, I'm hitting the ball hard. It's just right at guys playing shifts. So, all you can do is continue to swing."
Sandwiched around Howard's fourth-inning solo homer were three hard-hit balls that found Wong positioned in shallow right field. Wong threw Howard out at first each time.
"At some point, you kind of feel bad because he hits two line drives and a ground ball right at me," Wong said. "I'm playing pretty deep. If I'm playing up close, I don't know if I'm making those plays at all. It definitely helps having that shift and being able to cover more ground, as opposed to being as close as we usually are.
"That just shows the kind of respect we have for him. We know the guy can hit. We're trying to do whatever we can to put ourselves in a situation to make a play on him."
The Cardinals have become more active in deploying defensive shifts in recent years, though they're not among the most aggressive. According to data released by Baseball Info Solutions last week, the Cardinals did not rank in the top half of the Majors in number of defensive shifts over the first two weeks of the season.