PITTSBURGH • As impressive as the Cardinals’ recent run of three straight shutouts was, perhaps more eye-popping has been their ability to deliver runners from scoring position.
Before Wednesday night’s game with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Cardinals were first in hitting with runners in scoring position at .395 and were leaving an average of 2.38 runners in scoring position, well ahead of second-place Washington’s 2.61 and light years ahead of their 3.61 mark of last season, which ranked 24th.
Of the 10 hitters the Cardinals had employed the most often this year, nine of them were hitting over .300 with runners in scoring position, and David Freese was close at .286 on two for seven.
In order, the averages were Carlos Beltran, 667; Matt Holliday, .636; Matt Adams, .600; Allen Craig, .375; Jon Jay, 333; Yadier Molina, .333; Pete Kozma, .333; Daniel Descalso, .333; and Matt Carpenter, .308.
Beltran and Craig have had to be clutch hitters because, with runners not in scoring position, they were batting .093 and .212, respectively.
Manager Mike Matheny said this spring, “We were constantly talking about situational hitting.”
Then, citing an at-bat Tuesday that did not feature a hit but did produce a run (later rained out), Matheny pointed to Molina hitting a ground ball to the right side with the infield playing back, scoring Beltran. “It’s the mind-set of taking advantage of those opportunities,” Matheny said.
Matheny talked of how good the Cardinals’ at-bats have been with two strikes, let alone two outs. Their average of .431 with two outs and runners in scoring position also is almost off the charts.
“That’s something that John (hitting coach John Mabry) has been real clear about,” Matheny said. “This is the personality this team should have. When we get to two strikes and guys on base, we’re just fighting.”
Before Wednesday, 11 of the Cardinals’ last 13 runs had come with two out.
ADAMS GETS A START
Adams, who carried a .611 average and had three homers and eight RBIs in only 18 at-bats, was at first base.
“There’s really no secret in the fact that we’ve got to keep him fresh and give him opportunities, especially when he’s seeing the ball as well as he is right now and swinging (the bat),” Matheny said.
A number of Adams’ family and friends from his hometown in Phillipsburg, Pa., and Slippery Rock University attended, with many wearing freshly minted, “Adams, 53,” red shirts.