ST. PETERSBURG -- Ask Cardinals star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt about his MLB-leading 44-game on-base streak (coming into Thursday's game) or his recently ended 25-game hitting streak, and he suddenly morphs into a mime with unspoken angst, awkward facial snarls and an uncomfortable shoulder shrug.
However, do not take Goldschmidt’s silence as an indicator of him being the shy or reclusive type. Just the opposite, actually. The four-time Gold Glover is downright loquacious when runners are on first or when umpires and first-base coaches are within earshot. Ask Goldschmidt a question about anything other than his own exploits -- MLB’s controversial shift arguments, calls for pitch clocks to speed up the action in Major League Baseball or even something as weighty as world peace -- and the mild-mannered star can become downright chatty.
This week, with the Cardinals playing three straight extra-innings games -- 10 innings in the second game of a doubleheader Saturday, 11 in the decisive Game 5 of a series against the rival Cubs and a 10-inning heartbreaker Tuesday in St. Petersburg -- Goldschmidt was asked what he thought about MLB’s controversial rule to place an automatic runner to start the 10th inning and every subsequent inning needed to decide the game. While most purists -- and, for that matter, pitchers -- aren’t big fans of the rule, Goldschmidt loves it and thinks the change was a stroke of genius by the powers that be in baseball.
“It’s just my opinion, but these rules are so much better for everybody,” said Goldschmidt, the NL Player of the Month for May who came into Thursday leading the NL in hits (72), batting average (.341), on-base percentage (.421) and OPS (1.023).
“Nobody wants to play 17 innings, and everybody will be all tired the next few days and pitchers getting sent down [to the Minor Leagues] even though they are pitching well.”
Goldschmidt, who usually puts plenty of context and thought into his arguments, didn’t stop there when it came to thinking through all sides of the extra-innings rule that came to being in 2020. He also likes the rule because of what it does for the fans and for the good of the game.
“It's more entertaining for fans, I would assume, because they don’t want to see a bunch of innings with nobody on base,” Goldschmidt added. “It’s kind of like what hockey does with three-on-three and shootouts. It’s good for players because pitchers don’t have to go out there and [throw] a bunch of extra innings and other players who have to keep on playing with no off-days ahead.
“And it’s just more fun to watch for the fans. If I was a fan and there was potential for a run to basically be scored on every pitch in extra innings, that would be more fun to me. There’s great strategy involved [with runners placed on second base] -- strategy that has gone away from the game for the most part. I think it’s worked out well. I’m sure people were skeptical of it in the beginning, but I think it’s worked out well for everybody.”
The Cardinals came within one strike of winning three straight extra-inning games Tuesday for the first time since May 1-3, 2015, when they beat the Pirates with three straight walk-off winners at Busch Stadium. After winning in 10 innings and 11 innings at Wrigley last weekend and being within one strike of another 10th-inning victory Tuesday, Drew VerHagen’s 89.5 mph changeup hung in the middle of the plate and light-hitting middle infielder Taylor Walls banged it off the foul pole in right field for a three-run home run.