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Fowler crushes solo homer in new lineup spot

MLB.com @JoeTrezz

ST. LOUIS -- Dexter Fowler arrived at Busch Stadium on Saturday to see a bobblehead created in his likeness, and his name in an unfamiliar slot in the order.

In an effort to jump-start the right fielder's slow start to the season, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny dropped his typical leadoff hitter to fifth in the order during the Cardinals' 4-3 win over the Reds on Saturday.

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ST. LOUIS -- Dexter Fowler arrived at Busch Stadium on Saturday to see a bobblehead created in his likeness, and his name in an unfamiliar slot in the order.

In an effort to jump-start the right fielder's slow start to the season, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny dropped his typical leadoff hitter to fifth in the order during the Cardinals' 4-3 win over the Reds on Saturday.

View Full Game Coverage

Whether Fowler was ready to break out, or responded to the move, nobody can know. But the optics certainly looked good when Fowler homered in the sixth inning off Homer Bailey, his solo shot extending the Cardinals' lead to 3-0.

"Just trying to get him going," Matheny said pregame of Fowler, who entered play hitting .176.

Fowler struggled in the leadoff spot early last season before Matheny swapped him and Matt Carpenter, who was struggling in the No. 3 hole. Overall, Fowler hit .205/.308/.390 from the leadoff spot in 2017, compared to .271/.361/.447 out of the No. 3 hole.

Matheny's decision to drop Fowler for the first time this season came on an afternoon the club was without its typical No.2 hitter as well, with Tommy Pham missing his second game this week due to groin tightness.

Those two factors sparked a round of sweeping lineup changes. Fowler was sent to fifth, where Jose Martinez had been planted. Martinez rose to third, and Carpenter raised to leadoff. Yadier Molina, whom Matheny routinely references as the team's "best baserunner," was penciled into the No. 2 slot.

"Listen, we've been winning some games. But how can we get our offense going to where it's really clicking?" Matheny said. 'We've gone a number of games here trying to get guys going in the same spot. Sometimes you do something different, whether it's in the work or in the batting order position. Sometimes the psychology of the game is real. The analytics don't like it, but it's real, and we have to pay attention to it."

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com.

St. Louis Cardinals, Dexter Fowler