Diaz's HRs spark sluggish Cardinals offense

Cards' No. 2 hitter takes Arroyo deep in first, fourth innings

April 8th, 2017

ST. LOUIS -- returned as a familiar foe to almost everyone in the Cardinals' lineup Saturday. was the exception.

Diaz was a Double-A infielder with 84 professional at-bats the last time Arroyo pitched in a big league game, but an ability to turn on inside pitches and adjust to Arroyo's low-velocity repertoire minimized the effects of any unfamiliarity.

Twice, Diaz stung Arroyo for a home run -- the first two of the shortstop's season, and the needed spark for an offense that has been slow going early. His second drive turned a one-run lead into a four-run advantage in a game the Cardinals eventually won, 10-4, over the Reds.

"Both of them were probably the worst pitches I threw all day," Arroyo said afterward. "The first one was no big deal. First inning, you give up a solo homer, that's fine. But that second one hurt bad. It was a breaking ball. That one just went middle-in, right in his wheelhouse, and the wind was blowing out to left. That one put pretty much a dagger in the game."

Arroyo may have been a bit too hard on himself, as Statcast™ showed Diaz connecting in the fourth inning on a curveball that was well inside the strike zone. Diaz had gone down swinging on a slider two innings earlier, and he had swung through two curveballs already in that fourth-inning at-bat.

He reset his swing to ensure he didn't miss a third.

"I was trusting my hands," Diaz said. "I got fooled two times with breaking balls, so I was just trying to put the ball in play. I just reacted to the ball."

Statcast™ calculated the exit velocity of the homer at 98.9 mph. It would have been Diaz's hardest-hit ball this season -- except he had barreled one at 109.6 mph two innings earlier. That solo home run was the hardest-hit homer of Diaz's Major League career, according to Statcast™.

"I watched the flight of the second home run he hit, and to be able to pull his hands in like he did and to keep the ball fair, there's just not a lot of guys who can do that," manager Mike Matheny said. "He has the power, but he also has the rest, too, where he can fight through a good at-bat."

Sandwiched between and Matt Carpenter in the Cardinals' order, Diaz noted that he's already reaping dividends from his lineup spot. Diaz benefits from watching Fowler work pitchers ahead of him, and he gets pitches to hit with Carpenter looming.

Diaz leads the club with seven hits through five games, a quick start similar to the one he enjoyed as a rookie a year ago. Last April, Diaz made an instant impact, slashing .423/.453/.732 in April.

"The thing I took from last year was I have to trust the process," Diaz said. "It's a long season, so you can't be mad if you have a bad day. I'm trusting the process and working hard every day."