NEW YORK — When Cardinals manager Mike Shildt made the decision to uproot Paul DeJong from No. 3 in the batting order to No. 2, the new spot still had the view that DeJong wanted.
It moved him from hitting behind Paul Goldschmidt, where he had thrived as one of the most productive shortstops in the National League, to batting ahead of him.
“Like to hit in the first inning,” DeJong said. “Having 'Goldy' behind me seems lately to be working. I still need to get on base a little bit more so I can score for 'Goldy' and 'Ozo' (Marcell Ozuna) behind me. Haven’t quite clicked together as a group with me in the two-hole.”
But he could be warming.
DeJong’s first RBI of the day Friday was his second of the game at Citi Field as he drove the Cardinals to a 5-4 victory in the leftover suspended game from Thursday. DeJong had a two-strike homer off Jacob deGrom, the reigning Cy Young Award winner, on Thursday, and in the top of the 10th inning of the game that was delayed by poor weather and poorer field conditions, he had the two-strike single that brought home the winning run. DeJong’s single came off Edwin Diaz, last year’s top closer in the American League before a trade to the Mets.
Then in the regularly scheduled contest, he homered in the eighth inning to tie the contest 5-5. That ignited an four-run outburst in the inning that carried the Cardinals to a 9-5 victory.
DeJong now has at least a hit in nine of his 11 games this month — all of them while batting in the No. 2 spot.
He began the year hitting third and thrived with a .882 OPS and almost as many walks (29) as strikeouts (35). That sweetened his on-base percentage and .392 and helped influence Shildt’s decision to move him up in the order. While Shildt saw the Pauls “as interchangeable, candidly,” getting DeJong ahead of Goldschmidt might create more RBI looks for the first baseman.
“He had done a nice job hitting third (and) he was getting his walks,” Shildt said. “We were looking for a way to create more opportunity for Goldie to drive in runs and then also allow 'Paulie' to still do some damage as well in the two-hole.”
In the first 12 games since moving to the No. 2 spot, DeJong’s strikeout rate spiked and he had 15 in his first 49 at-bats, including three consecutive strikeouts to start Friday night’s game before homering. Batting behind Goldschmidt he saw the similarities in how pitchers approached the two righthanded batters and would use that information, which Goldschmidt now has a chance to watch from the on-deck circle.
DeJong spoke between games about his game-winning RBI and the game-tying homer on Thursday and referenced how both came with two strikes.
“For me, it’s about working at-bats,” he said. “Our team doesn’t have that type of lineup (in which) you have the speedy guy leading off and the two-hole handling the bat. For us, it’s about the extra-base hits and just extending (the rally), getting guys on base and letting somebody in the middle of the order get that double, that two-run double.”
The suspended game wedged into Friday’s schedule allowed the Cardinals and Mets to add a 26th man to the active roster, and the Cardinals, their pitching depleted, brought back reliever Dominic Leone to serve in the role though he did not play.
Leone, 27, had spent almost a month with Class AAA Memphis after a demotion, and in 10 games for the Redbirds had a 5.40 ERA and 12 strikeouts and 12 walks in 13 1/3 innings.
In his first eight days with Memphis, he had five appearances and threw 6 1/3 innings in what appeared to be a schedule to get him innings right away.
“I pitched quite a bit in a short amount of time,” Leone said. “That snowball kept going a little bit. I had a lot of chances to sit down and watch some video and just kind of reworked some mechanics, reworked some things in terms of what I’m trying to do on the mound. It was really kind of get back to basics. Kind of, start from scratch. Treat my time down there like it was spring training.”
Leone identified a timing lag in his mechanics that was causing his arm to swing late and possibly leave his pitches adrift higher in the zone. He’s worked to synch his delivery to get command back of “more or less everything.”
The Cardinals must make a roster move before Saturday’s game to return to 25 players on the active roster.
REYES KEPT READY
Alex Reyes’ abbreviated three-inning appearance for Class AAA Memphis on Thursday night was part of a schedule meant to manage his innings — and keep him available should the Cardinals need a starter this coming week at home. With Adam Wainwright on the injured list, the Cardinals expect to need a starter Wednesday against the Marlins, and they could turn to either Friday’s starter — Daniel Ponce de Leon — lefty Genesis Cabrera, or Reyes.
Reyes raced through two strong innings Thursday before his command faltered in his third and final inning on his way to walking four batters.
The first two innings “would have been more representative of a positive body of work,” Shildt said. “Everything in the zone. Secondary pitches working. Third inning, a little less command. Didn’t go as well.”
MORE PICKS SIGN
The Cardinals completed and announced deals Friday with more draft picks, including power-packed righthander Logan Gragg, their eighth-round selection from Oklahoma State. The others: 14th-rounder Tyler Statler, a righthanded pitcher from Hononegah (Ill.) High; 17th-rounder Michael YaSenka, a righty from Eastern Illinois, and 26th-rounder Jeremy Randolph, the closer at Alabama.
The Cardinals also agreed to terms with fifth-rounder Connor Thomas, a lefty from Georgia Tech. He received a $340,000 bonus, per MLB.com. The Cardinals have signed seven of their top 10 picks from this month’s draft.
A driving reason behind Thursday’s suspended game wasn’t just the rainstorm parked above Citi Field but the swamp developing on it.
“At some point the field started to get a little mushy,” crew chief Jeff Kellogg explained. “It was the fact that that field was getting lost. It was just getting to a point where you could put all the Diamond Dry on it you want, and you’re not going to fix it.”
• Yairo Munoz’s stolen base to help win the suspended game was his first of the season, giving the Cardinals 13 players with at least one. That leads the majors.
• Jedd Gyorko (lower back) has been able to participate in all baseball activities without limitations, and he has traveled with the team on this road trip despite being ineligible to play while on the IL.