St. Louis Cardinals: Birds Sweep Braves at Brand New Ballpark
Offense (21 R, 38 H, 10 2B, 7 HR, 19 RBI, 12 BB, 3 SB, .295 AVG, .273 RISP)
The St. Louis Cardinals’ bats were another big reason the team collected its second sweep of the season. They got off and running early, scoring in the first inning in all three games. Friday night, they spotted Lynn a 6-0 lead through four innings. Saturday night, they gave Leake a 4-0 lead after four. And Sunday afternoon, they led 4-0 for Wacha after three.
Recent injuries to Stephen Piscotty and Dexter Fowler forced Mike Matheny to shuffle up the batting order, which featured Kolten Wong and Jose Martinez at the top of the lineup in the first two games. Matt Carpenter, Aledmys Diaz and Tommy Pham paced the team in run production, and Randal Grichuk enjoyed three multi-hit games.
Matt Adams filled in in left field for the injured Martinez on Saturday, and produced at the plate as well. 21-year-old Magneuris Sierra replaced Martinez on the roster Sunday and collected a hit in his major-league debut.
Kolten Wong: 3-for-17, 1 2B, 1 BB, 3 K
Wong hit just .176 in the series against the Braves, but tallied a hit in each of the three wins, extending his career-best hitting streak to twelve games. He also hit in the leadoff position for all three games in lieu of the injured Dexter Fowler. Fowler pinch-hit on Sunday, so it’s likely Wong will drop back down in the order soon once Fowler returns full-time.
Jose Martinez: 2-for-7, 2 2B, 3 K
Martinez was next in line for more playing time with Piscotty on the disabled list, and started in left field and hit second in the order in the first two games of the series. Friday night, he swatted two doubles. Saturday night, he injured himself running to first base during his first at-bat. The club placed him on the disabled list a day later.
One wonders if Martinez, who earned an Opening Day roster spot over fellow outfielder Tommy Pham, will be ticketed for Triple-A rather than the Major Leagues once he’s ready to return from the DL. Martinez has hit well in limited time with the Cardinals this season, but Pham was even better in his first three games back with St. Louis.
Magneuris Sierra: 1-for-6
Sierra made the jump from A-ball to the Majors on Sunday because of Martinez’s injury. He started in center field and hit seventh in the lineup. He really only had one opportunity to display his defensive prowess in center, and tracked down a line drive in the left-center field gap with relative ease:
At the plate, he made five ground ball outs, but also collected his first major-league knock, a soft line drive
to left field. If Fowler is ready to return to the lineup, Sierra might not see regular time moving forward. He’s likely to return to the minor leagues anyway once Piscotty is healthy.
Matt Carpenter: 4-for-11, 3 HR, 5 RBI, 5 BB, 2 K
Carpenter is finally beginning to find a groove at the plate. He went deep in all three games against the Braves, and now leads the team with seven home runs. In his last nine games, Carpenter is 11-for-36 (.306), with five home runs, fifteen runs batted in, and thirteen walks.
Over the years, Carpenter is at his best when he combines his ability to work counts and draw walks with his ability to drive the ball for extra-base-hits and collect RBI’s. He’s been doing both lately, and that’s why the All-Star continues to hit third in the Cardinals’ lineup.
Randal Grichuk: 6-for-17, 3 2B, 1 RBI, 2 SB, 5 K
Grichuk hit seventh, fourth, and second in the three games, but the different spots in the order didn’t affect his production. He collected two hits in all three wins. He hit three doubles in the series, and is tied with Wong for the team lead with nine. Accompanying the six hits at the plate were five strikeouts.
The Randal Grichuk on display against the Braves was essentially the Randal Grichuk that the Cardinals are accustomed to seeing.
Aledmys Diaz: 7-for-14, 1 2B, 5 RBI, 1 K
Since Matheny removed him from the two hole in the lineup last Thursday, Diaz has done nothing but hit. Even with an 0-for-6 day at the plate Sunday, he ended up with a knock in half of his at-bats over the weekend. He reached base in his first eight plate appearances of the series.
Diaz’s batting average is now up to .267 on the year after spending much of April in the .220s-.240s range. He also knocked in five runs in the three games, an indicator of the effectiveness of the lineup switch. The Cardinals need another run producer in their lineup, and Diaz has answered the call as of late.
Tommy Pham: 6-for-12, 1 2B, 3 HR, 5 RBI, 2 BB, 1 SB, 1 K
Pham’s return to St. Louis is already well-documented: he missed the Opening Day roster and spent the first month of the year in Triple-A Memphis. All he needed, it appears, was an opportunity. That came when Piscotty went down with a hamstring strain.
Pham was in the Cardinals’ starting lineup Friday night, and made an impact immediately. He doubled off the wall in his first at-bat, and hit a two-run home run in his second time up.
Pham played center field Friday and Saturday, and shifted over to left field for Sunday’s game.
In the series finale, he went deep again in his first at-bat, but his biggest moment of the weekend came hours later, in the fourteenth inning. With Sierra on first base with one out in a 4-4 game, Pham launched a pitch from Josh Collmenter into the upper deck down the left field line for his second home run of the game.
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The decisive blast all but ensured that the Cardinals, who blew a lead in the eighth inning, would leave Atlanta with a three game sweep. Pham hit four home runs in twenty-five Triple-A games this season. He hit three in his first three games back in the majors. He’ll continue to get looks in the Cards’ starting lineup so long as Piscotty remains sidelined. His audition to stay on the big league roster even when Piscotty returns will continue this week.
Matt Adams: 2-for-6, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 K
Adams, who started four of the Cardinals’ first nine games in left field, hadn’t seen any action in left since then. Until Saturday. Martinez’s injury thrust Big City back into the outfield. He caught the one fly ball that came his way without incident, but it was his day at the plate that opened eyes.
He hit the ball hard in all four of his at-bats. Two of them resulted in hits. One was good for his first home run of the season, a no-doubter in the fourth inning to extend the St. Louis lead. He struck out in pinch-hit appearances Friday and Sunday, but is quietly in the midst of a productive stretch at the plate after a rough start.
He’s 8 for his last 16, and three of those hits were pinch hits. Add a spot start in here and there to keep him sharp, and Adams can be a valuable reserve piece for Matheny and the Cardinals.
Next: A Look At the May Schedule
Next up for the Cardinals is a three game series against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park that closes out the six game road trip. The Redbirds have an off day Thursday before beginning an eight game homestand against the Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox, and San Francisco Giants.