ST. LOUIS -- There have been times when the top of the order has carried the Cardinals this year.
And there have been times when the heart of the order has done so.
Game 5 of the National League Division Series, when the Cardinals romped the Braves, 13-1, showed just how potent St. Louis could be if both synced up at the same time.
“I think it’s exciting,” catcher Matt Wieters said. “Watching from the side, the team kind of feels it, that it’s starting to feel like everybody’s getting going at the right time. We have had different points in the year where certain guys would carry us for a stretch and certain guys would pick up, and there would always be that waxing and waning. But the series in Atlanta as it got rolling kind of felt like the dominoes going, and especially in that last game.”
Goldschmidt (.429/.478/.905) and Ozuna (.429/.478/.857) had nearly identical slash lines in the NLDS, but they rely on the guys in front of them to get on base in order for those hits to produce runs.
“They are huge for us,” Goldschmidt said. “They make my job so much easier. They put pressure on the defense and pitcher. Whenever there are guys on base, it makes the pitcher’s job harder and puts pressure on him and defense. It makes the hitter’s job easier only having to get a single to score a run or an extra-base hit scores multiple runs. That’s how as an offense we can link at-bats -- the first few guys get on base, then it makes the next guy's job easier and we all work together.”
With the speed both players have -- Wong stole 24 bases during the season while Fowler nabbed eight -- they can distract a pitcher when they’re on the bases because he must keep a close eye on them.
It also could be key when Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki is behind the plate. Suzuki threw out just five of 50 would-be basestealers during the regular season.
“It’s really important,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said of the pair getting on base. “You saw that [in Game 5]. Dex set the tone with that walk, Kolten the bunt -- something he can do on his own, did it, moved the runner, tried to get us an early lead.”
And Shildt said it makes a difference in how Goldschmidt and Ozuna are pitched to when there are runners on base.
“It sets them up to make sure they continue to get pitched to and then it just lengthens the lineup,” Shildt said.