Offense shows versatility with small ball

Situational hitting fuels big inning in win over Angels

May 12th, 2016

ANAHEIM -- A night after surging to a series-opening victory behind the power of the long ball, the Cardinals displayed a different dimension to their offense in Wednesday's 5-2 win over the Angels.

The situational hitting and stringing together of hits that had been so crucial amid the team's power drought the past three seasons keyed a game-changing big inning against Angels starter Matt Shoemaker early. Unlike Tuesday when the Cardinals registered nine extra-base hits -- including four home runs -- eight of their nine hits on Wednesday were singles.

Five of those singles, however, led directly to runs. Four came with runners in scoring position.

"I think tonight was a great sign," said Stephen Piscotty, who drove in a seventh-inning insurance run on his 17th hit of the year with a runner in scoring position. "I feel like this type of game we haven't quite done too much. It's been kind of all or nothing. Especially when you have [Jaime Garcia] dealing, you don't need eight or nine. Just get a few early to set the tone."

The Cardinals got those in the span of a 32-pitch second inning. Brandon Moss drew a leadoff walk against the freshly recalled Shoemaker, and the Cardinals nibbled away with four consecutive singles to follow. The base-to-base movement continued with an Aledmys Diaz bases-loaded sacrifice fly that was deep enough to advance all three runners. In moving to third on that out, Randal Grichuk was then able to score on a sacrifice fly by Matt Carpenter.

"I liked the situational hitting," Matheny said. "Good baserunning, too, with guys tagging up and pushing the offense. I just liked the way they went about it all day today."

It was the 11th four-run inning of the season for St. Louis but the first that did not feature at least one extra-base hit. The Cardinals entered the game ranked second in the Majors with 48 homers, a total they didn't reach last year until their 63rd game. Those home runs had generated 44 percent of the Cardinals' 183 runs.

It's the sort of power output that the Cardinals have come to expect, but also a luxury upon which they know they can't always depend.

"I think we're going to be the kind of team that has the long-ball gap threat all the time," Matheny said. "That's who we are. And it's something that's not only going to be in the back of our mind, but in our opponent's mind. You're also going to have to grind out some at-bats. The situational hitting is going to be the difference for us."