St. Louis Cardinals: Rookies Give the Offense a Massive Boost
By Landon Clapp
Jeremy Hazelbaker tied tonight’s ballgame with the Braves with a pinch hit solo home run in the 7th. Aledmys Diaz drove in the game-winning run for the St. Louis Cardinals with a pinch hit solo shot in the 8th.
I’m not sure if there are words to describe how huge the Jeremy Hazelbaker/Aledmys Diaz rookie combo were for the St. Louis Cardinals tonight.
After six innings of sluggish baseball against a rebuilding Braves club, two of the Cardinals’ final roster additions came up huge for a club seeking their first win on the 2016 campaign.
After falling behind 4-0 in bottom of the third, the Cardinals scored three times in the top of the 4th to narrow things at 4-3.
That score would hold up until Mike Matheny sent Hazelbaker, his 28-year-old rookie, to the dish to hit for Jaime Garcia in the top of the 7th.
Hazelbaker abruptly lined a 1-0 fastball from Braves starter Matt Wisler out of the yard in right centerfield, tying the score at 4-4.
The Cardinals would get a zero out of Seung-Hwan Oh and Kevin Siegrist in the bottom of the 7th, before sending Diaz up to pinch hit for Matt Adams to lead off the top of the 8th.
Diaz jumped on a fastball from Atlanta left hander Eric O’Flaherty, depositing the baseball in the left field bleachers for his first Major League home run.
The Cardinals would get another pinch hit home run in the top of the 9th from Greg Garcia before Stephen Piscotty hit a solo shot of his own to right center field.
Trevor Rosenthal would come on to close things down in the bottom of the 9th, and the Cardinals notched their first win of the 2016 season.
The boost in mood and morale in the Cardinal dugout was palpable in those later innings. This was a vintage Cardinal win; one they desperately needed to get some positive energy going after a disappointing opening series in Pittsburgh.
I could almost feel the collective exhale from the Cardinal offense, or really, the entire team as a whole.
There are still issues to be ironed out, don’t get me wrong. The Cardinals looked flat for pretty much the entirety of the game before Hazelbaker’s at-bat.
Jedd Gyorko kicked a couple of balls at short early on, and although it didn’t lead to any scoring from Atlanta, that can’t happen.
We’ve got to figure out a way to get Randal Grichuk out of whatever funk he’s got going on. He’s going to lose time to Hazelbaker so long as he gives the Cardinal offense a spark.
Hopefully Grichuk can re-group and get back to driving the baseball like he has early in his career.
It wasn’t a perfect showing, but it was a win that the Cardinals desperately needed. They got a HUGE lift from two of the most unlikely of candidates.
Next: Aledmys Diaz the best option at shortstop?
Hopefully, that kicks the rest of the offense into gear. There are some talented names in that lineup, and they may have just gotten the emotional lift they need to get things rolling in this 2016 season.