Cardinals look to break out against left-handers
CINCINNATI -- For all the praise heaped upon the Cardinals' offense in 2013 -- a group that hit .330 with runners in scoring position and led the league in runs scored by a margin of 77 -- the unit's futility against left-handed pitching remained as prevalent a topic as any when the organization transitioned into offseason mode last fall.
It was one of the reasons the Cardinals targeted a right-handed-hitting shortstop in Jhonny Peralta as they went to fill that hole. Peter Bourjos, acquired for his expected defensive contributions, also added a right-handed bat to the mix. With three other key right-handed hitters in the middle of the lineup, the Cardinals expect their results against lefties to be much improved in 2014.
Cincinnati's Tony Cingrani will give the organization its first chance to test that theory on Wednesday. Pittsburgh's Francisco Liriano looms on Saturday. The two combined to go 5-0 with a 1.80 ERA against the Cardinals last season.
"It's obviously a conversation that we had, and some of the moves we made were focused around trying to fill some of the gaps," manager Mike Matheny said. "There is a gap there. Once again, I don't completely get why. But it's something that has been too obvious not to try and change."
The Cardinals faced a left-handed starter in 42 regular-season games last season and won just 19. Compared to the slash line of .280/.343/.412 that the offense registered against right-handers, the Cardinals hit .238/.301/.371 against southpaws. The team's OPS (.755 to .672) was also considerably lower.
After batting Kolten Wong in the second spot of the batting order on Monday, Matheny moved Peralta to that spot versus Cingrani. It's a likely spot for the shortstop in games where the Cardinals face a left-hander. Matheny moved the left-handed-hitting Wong lower in the order and was able to break up his left-handed bats despite doing so.
"I think it's going to dramatically change," Matheny said of the trend. "It's optimism and hopeful, but I think our approach, in general, is very consistent whether it's against left-handed or right. I think it's just a matter of time until guys put together the kind of approach consistently against lefties that they are against the right-handers."