No team can boast about its production off the bench like the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Cardinals smashed two more pinch-hit homers Friday night in their 14-3 bombardment of the Cincinnati Reds: one by Brandon Moss, the other by Matt Adams.
St. Louis’ six homers in the game set a Busch Stadium III record.
It’s usually an acquired skill that you resort to at the end of your career. None of those guys are in that space right now. They’re making the most of their at-bats.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny on his team’s pinch-hitting prowess
Through Saturday, Cardinals pinch-hitters are batting a gaudy .556 (10-for-18). Their six pinch-hit homers are two more than the combined total of all 29 other teams. St. Louis hit four pinch-hit homers last season.
“There may be times this season when they don’t come in bunches like this,” said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, whose team lost to Cincinnati 9-8 on Saturday. “I think what it is doing is showing not just to our guys, but the league, that you’re going to have to consider the guys coming off the bench. The way they’re preparing, the way they’re taking their at-bats and the potential they have for making a big difference.
“We just want our guys to put these into that confidence spot in their mind and remember that they can come off the bench after sitting for a long period of time and make a big difference in the game.”
Moss (two), Adams, Aledmys Diaz, Greg Garcia and Jeremy Hazelbaker have the pinch-hit homers. Moss hit one Wednesday and another Friday and he was rewarded with a start Saturday against Reds left-hander Brandon Finnegan. The move worked as Moss proved he also can homer in a starting role, delivering a two-run homer in the ninth.
Matheny said the pinch-hit success is even more amazing considering most of the players doing the damage have been regulars in the past and are unaccustomed to the role. Rookies Diaz and Hazelbaker have been everyday players this season, making their rare contributions off the bench equally impressive.
“We’re not talking about a Lenny Harris or a guy that that was what they had predominantly done through their career,” Matheny said. “These are guys that are typically everyday players. It’s usually an acquired skill that you resort to at the end of your career. None of those guys are in that space right now. They’re making the most of their at-bats.
“I think they’re also fighting for more opportunities. The more opportunities they get and the more times they show us what they can do, the more we want to get them in there. That’s the nature of this game.”
Slow go for Pham
Outfielder Tommy Pham still is sidelined by a left oblique strain and doesn’t seem close to returning to action.
“I don’t have any answers right now,” Pham said. “I’m feeling better. I don’t know too much about obliques. It’s frustrating sitting right now, being on the DL. Other than that, I have to just find a way to get healthy again. Maybe in another week.”
Pham is doing no baseball-related activities.
“Walk, eat, sleep. The basics,” Pham said. “I stand in (the cage) and track pitches. That’s about it.”
Shortstop Ruben Tejada (left quad strain) was 0-for-4 in his first two rehab games. The Cardinals aren’t sure when he will rejoin the team, although General Manager John Mozeliak said Wednesday that it could be as early as this weekend.
With Diaz playing so well at shortstop and batting . 407 (11-for-27) with two homers and eight RBIs in eight games, there’s no urgency to summon Tejada.
“I haven’t even talked to the medical staff today about what the game plan is,” Matheny said, referring to Tejada’s possible arrival in St. Louis.
Wong sits vs. lefty
Second baseman Kolten Wong watched from the bench as Jedd Gyorko received the start Saturday against Finnegan. Wong batted .229 against lefties last year and is 1-for-8 against them this season.
Matheny still believes Wong can hit left-handers.
“It’s all about an approach and a game plan,” Matheny said. “There’s going to be times in games where maybe he’s starting against a tough righty and a tough lefty comes in and (Wong) needs to stay in the game and he puts together a good at-bat. It’s more of the good at-bats than just the base hit. Putting together the good at-bats will instill more confidence to where he’s got a better chance.”