Talking about the St. Louis Cardinals baserunning was a sore subject last season, but manager Mike Matheny has been elated with the progress in that department this spring.
The Redbirds were all over the bases Wednesday in a 9-3 victory over the Washington Nationals. Aledmys Diaz scored on a shallow sacrifice fly to left, Dexter Fowler collected two hits and a walk and scored two runs, Matt Adams advanced from second to third on a fly ball to right and Randal Grichuk legged out a triple to right-center.
It’s all part of a newly adopted, aggressive baserunning mindset that has helped spark the Cardinals to a 9-3 record in the Grapefruit League.
“There’s more intentionality,” Matheny said. “We’re celebrating it and doing a lot of talking about it. Our guys and our coaching staff is being more intentional about just teaching and talking about it and making sure it’s a focus, because once again, it’s one of the things that our guys all pointed out: ‘This is something we should be better at.’ It’s nice to see.”
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Matheny said improving the baserunning wasn’t going to happen naturally. It required attention, making it a priority.
“It’s one of those deals where maybe you just anticipate or expect it to happen every year,” Matheny said. “It can slip. I see an urgency on the bases, and it’s fun to watch.”
Matheny recalled a conversation he had last season, and again this spring, with Cardinals bench coach David Bell.
“How you run the bases the bases says a lot about you as a teammate,” Matheny said, referring to words Bell shared with him. “I mean, you’re really trying to do something for somebody else (on the bases). It’s Matt getting back and busting his butt to get to third base to create an opportunity for another guy to get the RBI.
“It’s just a selflessness that goes along with a guy who’s a good baserunner. When you get guys who take pride in being a really good baserunner, and trying to create offense, you’re helping out the other guys. It takes that mentality, and I’m seeing a lot of it.”
Diaz scored in the second on Adams’ sacrifice fly near the left-field line. He never hesitated, easily beating the throw of Adam Lind.
In the first inning, Diaz scored from second on Adams’ line-drive hit to right and narrowly slid across ahead of the throw from Brian Goodwin. Diaz quickly popped up and signaled safe ahead of plate umpire John Libka.
“He’s an aggressive baserunner already, a very good baserunner,” Matheny said of Diaz, starting his second season. “I don’t think we’ll see anything different from him.
“But this is the all-around personality of our club. They want to make that part of who we are. Regardless of who it is, it’s something we were hopeful of.”