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Piscotty holds his own at unfamiliar position

Cardinals rookie starts game at first, hits double and homer

ST. LOUIS -- With the Cardinals prioritizing offense over defense in their Game 1 National League Division Series lineup, Stephen Piscotty made his first career postseason appearance at a position where he made just nine previous big league starts.

He held his own there, contributed to the 4-0 win over the Cubs with a pair of key hits and was able to finish the game in a more familiar outfield spot after manager Mike Matheny made a late-game defensive switch that proved ever so timely.

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Matheny slid Piscotty to right field in the top of the seventh, believing that with a 1-0 lead in John Lackey's hands, he needed to go with a stronger defensive alignment. That move bumped Randal Grichuk from the game, but opened up a spot for Mark Reynolds to enter.

Thirteen pitches into his appearance, Reynolds proved to be the right man in the right place at the right time for the Cardinals, as the first baseman snared a sharp grounder and turned it into an inning-ending double play.

"Mark made a very, very tough play," Matheny said afterward. "That play is much tougher than maybe what it looked like at face value. You just put them in situations where you hope that they can thrive, and, boy, watching them do what they do, it's been fun all season."

It was a defensive switcheroo Matheny made several times in September, though it was easier then, with expanded rosters. Yet it's still also somewhat necessary given Piscotty's limited exposure at a position he never played professionally until July.

Video: CHC@STL Gm1: Reynolds makes stop, starts double play

Of the nine regular-season starts he made as a first baseman, only once did Piscotty finish that game there. In the other eight instances, Matheny made an in-game move to slide Piscotty to the outfield to shore up the team's defensive alignment late.

In the meantime, Piscotty continues to work to become more comfortable at the position. That's why just hours before Friday's game, he and infield coach Jose Oquendo had another lengthy session in what has been a three-month crash course at first base.

Video: CHC@STL Gm1: Piscotty on home run, win over Cubs

"He has work to do, but he's making good progress," Oquendo said. "He's sharp. He's smart. He makes the routine plays, which is the main thing. After that, we'll go from there. It'll be nice starting fresh next year in Spring Training where we can have time to explain a lot of different things about playing first base."

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The Cardinals don't have the luxury of time right now, as Piscotty lines up to likely be their starting first baseman when the team faces a lefty starter. He will start other games in the outfield, which became his everyday position in the Minors beginning in 2013.

During Thursday's workout, Piscotty focused specifically on footwork. Friday afternoon, Oquendo had non-roster shortstop Pete Kozma throw balls in the dirt to see if Piscotty could pick them. Oquendo corrected Piscotty's form midway through the session. The two have also worked extensively on getting Piscotty ready to start a potential double play and get back to the base in time.

Video: CHC@STL Gm1: Piscotty hits a two-run homer to left

All this work is being done so the Cardinals can keep Piscotty's bat in the lineup. In 63 games since his July 21 debut, Piscotty hit .305/.359/.494. He sparked the offense in Game 1, too, delivering a first-inning double that would lead to the Cardinals' first run and then pouncing on Pedro Strop for a two-run, eighth-inning homer that swelled the team's lead to four.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for and listen to her podcast.
Read More: St. Louis Cardinals, Stephen Piscotty