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Cozart displaying value at shortstop

CINCINNATI -- Reds shortstop Zack Cozart didn't connect with a huge hit in Wednesday's 1-0 win over the Cardinals. Yet, Cozart's contributions -- two nice defensive plays and a sacrifice bunt to set up Chris Heisey's walk-off RBI single -- proved highly essential for the victory.

The Reds' value what Cozart brings to their team on a daily basis.

"I think we've gotten away from appreciating what an everyday shortstop looks like," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "It doesn't have to look like [Derek] Jeter and A-Rod and [Nomar] Garciaparra, and especially guys like A-Rod that hit home runs. What you really want is solid defense and a good professional hitter that can do the things that need to be done like yesterday."

In the top of the eighth inning of a scoreless game with Matt Carpenter batting for St. Louis, a runner on second base and two out, there was a soft liner to shallow center field that looked likely to be a bloop RBI single.

"I thought it was going to be a back-breaker," Price said.

Instead, Cozart ran back and made a spectacular diving catch to save a run.

"I've never had a walk-off hit, but that was my walk-off defensive play right there. I like making plays like that," said Cozart, who also made a nice running catch in the outfield to prevent an Allen Craig hit in the second inning.

In the bottom of the ninth with runners on first and second, Cozart perfectly executed a sacrifice bunt to the left side to advance the runners. Two batters later, with the bases loaded, Heisey delivered the game-winning pinch-hit single.

"I love leaving the park helping the team win in any fashion," Cozart said. "To make that play and get the sac bunt down off a tough [Carlos] Martinez throwing that hard and sinking it, it was pretty cool."

Cozart led the National League with 10 sacrifice bunts last season and batted .254 in 151 games after a slow start. Price likes that Cozart can do a lot of little things -- steal a base, hit to the opposite field or drop a bunt when needed. Then, of course, there is his glove.

"More important than anything is to be really solid up the middle with his defense," Price said. "To me, that shows up every day with Zack and could be very easily underappreciated. We appreciate what he does."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon.
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