ST. LOUIS -- J.T. Realmuto was perfect until Monday.
But you can bet he will be looking to make amends in the National League Wild Card Series against the Cardinals.
Realmuto stole 21 consecutive bases to start the season before he got caught stealing second base in Monday night’s postseason-clinching victory in Houston. Still, he finished the season as one of only two catchers in MLB history to hit 20 homers and steal 20 bases in a season. Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez is the other.
“I blame Paco,” Realmuto joked Thursday afternoon at Busch Stadium, referring to Phillies first base coach Paco Figueroa. “He gave me a green light to a guy [Lance McCullers Jr.] that is 1.3 [seconds] to the plate and with a very good catcher [Martín Maldonado] behind the plate.
"No, it was spot where I was trying to get in scoring position with two outs. I knew he’s fast to the plate and they have a good catcher, so it was probably my smallest chance of getting a bag all season long that I’ve had. But in that situation, in that game, it was so important for me to try to get to second with two outs, I had to take that chance.”
Those little moments could be the difference between the Phillies winning or losing this series against the Cardinals.
It is why Realmuto is such an "X" factor in this series. His ability to impact the game on so many different levels is what will earn him some NL MVP votes. Realmuto can hit. He can run. He can steal bases. He calls a good game. He shuts down an opponent’s running game.
So, in this series, Cardinals baserunners will have to think twice before they run on Realmuto, while Cardinals pitchers will have to think about Realmuto taking an extra base on them.
“All facets of the game are extremely important to me,” Realmuto said. “That’s why I try to be the best I can, defensively, offensively, baserunning, in the clubhouse. No matter what it is, I try to be the best I can in every situation, because you never know where the game's going to take you. You might need baserunning that day. If you’re not hitting well, or one day you might need defense more than offense. Whatever it is, I try to excel in all aspects of the game. They’re all really important to me. But controlling the running game is something that's kind of a lost art, you know?”
So is basestealing. But the Phillies are pretty good at it. They were fifth in baseball with 105 stolen bases.
They were caught only 28 times.
“Paco pretty much does all the prep work for us,” Realmuto said. “I’ll come to him maybe 30 minutes before every game and say, ‘Paco, what do we got today? Do we have a chance? How’s this pitcher? What’s his time to the plate?’ He’ll have all the information. He watches film. If a guy has a tell on when he picks or when he doesn't pick, stuff like that. He has all that information ready for us before the game. We’ll just have a five-minute conversation over it.
“I actually told Paco before the season started that, 'Hey, I want to get 20 bags this year.' He kind of just laughed it off because I hadn’t done it before.”
But he did it. And he would love to get a couple more in the postseason.