Tommy Edman’s ears told his brain this was different.
“The ninth innings were the loudest I’ve ever heard in a baseball game,” the Cardinals’ do-everything rookie shared this weekend at Wrigley Field.
Mostly drowned out during a historic four-game sweep of the Cubs in Chicago that propelled the Cardinals toward the desert determined to clinch a division was the continued success of a steady newcomer at a time when a detour could have been disastrous.
The news that Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong, arguably the team’s most valuable player this season, is going to miss more time due to a hamstring injury could have landed a crippling blow to manager Mike Shildt’s team.
Easing the pain in his signature multi-faceted way was the versatile Edman.
At this point, we should not be surprised.
Edman does realize the magnitude of the massive moments he finds a way to thrive in. It’s not about doing something different in those moments. It’s about not letting the moment change a thing.
“He’s baseball guy,” Shildt said, paying the ultimate compliment. “He just plays the game. Gets it done. It’s valuable to have him play right field, go play third base, go play second base, and not really miss a beat doing it. He’s been a big part of our success.”
With no more experience at Wrigley than a single at-bat off the bench in early June, the 24-year-old infielder/outfielder passed a significant test against the North Siders. He shifted from third base to second without a hitch after Wong went down. He jumped up to second in Shildt’s lineup, then made things happen.
There is not an infielder out there who makes playing second look as simple as Wong, but Edman did more than hold his own after Wong’s injury. At second against the Cubs, Edman shook off the only error he committed and helped turn five double plays in three games. Significant, considering each game was decided by one run.
There are few No. 2 hitters who have been as productive as Wong since his promotion to that spot last month. He has a .309 average and a .479 slugging percentage during his time there, settling a spot in the order that Edman had tried and failed to tame earlier this season.
Edman sank his teeth into the spot in his return. He went seven-for-16 with a double and two triples in the sweep of the Cubs. He gladly wore two pitches for free trips to first base, scored four times and grounded into zero double plays. Whether he’s hitting second or seventh, he arrived in Arizona with a September batting line of .329/.378/.671, then hit a first-inning homer against the Diamondbacks in Monday night’s win there. Edman’s updated on-base plus slugging percentage for September reads 1.111. That’s fourth-best among all National League hitters.
Edman understated his quiet heroics before the Cardinals left Wrigley.
“I’ve played so much second over my minor league career and in college, it’s a natural position to me,” he said. “It doesn’t make a difference.”
The teammate he has helped ease the absence of was a lot more adamant. The Cardinals need Wong back for the postseason. Edman’s presence buys time.
“The dude is a player, man,” Wong said Sunday in a voice that had become hoarse due to his recent cheering. “He plays all over the field. He made that transition from third to second real easy. He came up and made an impact right away. Now you expect that out of him, based on what he has been doing so far.”
Wong’s injury wasn’t the only reason Edman’s success against the Cubs was noteworthy. The games marked a reunion of sorts with his former Stanford teammate, Cubs rookie shortstop Nico Hoerner, the recipient of much attention when he became the first player called up to the majors from his 2018 draft class.
“Obviously we both hoped to be in the majors, eventually,” Edman said. “It just happened to be probably a little bit earlier than we expected. And also within the same division. The combination of that is pretty cool.”
Hoerner, a former first-round draft pick, has received more spotlight.
Edman, drafted in the sixth round of 2016, has made more of an impact so far.
Edman’s season-long batting line now reads .298/.340/.500. Between his major league debut against the Cubs on June 8 and his two-for-three night Monday in Arizona, here’s how Edman stacks up among MLB rookies in the following categories: hits (90, tied for ninth); doubles (16, tied for 12th); triples (six, first); home runs (11,tied for 12th); stolen bases (11, tied for second).
The Cardinals knew Edman was a player. They did not expect this. At least not this soon.
It was way back in spring training when Edman opened eyes with a triple against Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer. A theme emerged. Edman would do something in a game that demanded attention, then quietly catch an Uber ride home from Roger Dean Stadium while coaches and teammates sang his praises. The theme has continued. Edman ranks 10th among Cardinals in at-bats, but he’s already fifth on the team in go-ahead RBIs (10) and fourth on the team in game-winning RBIs (seven).
The games are only going to get louder moving forward. Edman’s ears can sense the pressure change, but this baseball guy’s play tends to rise to the occasion.