Productive and poised are words that have been used to describe St. Louis Cardinals rookie Stephen Piscotty.
Piscotty threw in some emotion Wednesday after his two-run double in the eighth inning elevated the Cardinals past the Chicago Cubs 4-3 at Busch Stadium.
Standing on second base, Piscotty looked toward the Cardinals dugout and offered his teammates a hardy double-fist pump. Suddenly, good times had returned to a team that had dropped five of its last six games.
“I couldn’t resist that time,” the normally stoic Piscotty said of releasing his jubilation. “The crowd was loud and it was exciting. It just came out of me.
“It’s definitely good to get that one. You don’t want to get swept by the Cubs. Hopefully, we’ll take that momentum into the road trip. We’re fine. There’s no panic.”
Piscotty’s hit against Fernando Rodney capped a comeback from a 3-1 deficit. The previous batter, Matt Carpenter, had made it 3-2 with a single against Clayton Richard (3-1).
The rally was fueled by Mark Reynolds’ one-out walk against erratic reliever Pedro Strop and pinch-hitter Greg Garcia’s single, also against Strop.
Piscotty, a supplemental first-round draft pick in 2012 out of Stanford, is batting .329 with 13 doubles, four triples, four home runs and 30 RBIs in 45 games. He hasn’t shied away from big situations, either, batting .422 (19-for-45) with 24 RBIs with runners in scoring position.
“Just a nice, short approach that allows him to be very consistent for a young player,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.
Piscotty said he was comfortable heading into his eighth-inning at-bat.
“I was just looking for something over the plate,” he said. “I let it all out just because we’ve had some tough games. We’ve missed a little bit of that excitement. That was no time to hold it back, so I just wanted to let it all out. It was just a lot of fun.”
Piscotty wasn’t sure when he last celebrated on the field with so much vigor.
“I’ve had a couple of fist-pumps, maybe,” Piscotty said. “Maybe no one’s caught them. But there was no hiding that one.”
Gambling with Grichuk
The narrative for the game would have been different were it not for Piscotty’s heroics.
Matheny gambled by playing the freshly activated Randal Grichuk, who is coming off a strained right elbow and can’t throw, in center field. Grichuk fielded Anthony Rizzo’s first-inning double in right-center and had to flip the ball to Jason Heyward to return to the infield.
The delay allowed Chris Coghlan to score from first to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead. In the second, Dexter Fowler grounded a single to center, and pitcher Jon Lester easily scored from second.
“It didn’t take long for us to figure out how that was going to work, huh?” Matheny said. “That was the risk we took going into this. The odds of it happening in the first and affecting a run, I’ve got to say, are fairly low. But it got us.”
Matheny used Grichuk, who homered as a pinch-hitter Tuesday, to give the flagging offense a boost against the left-handed Lester. Grichuk was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.
“We try to find ways to help our offense, and you’ve got to live with them,” Matheny said. “Sometimes it goes the way you want it to. Other times, not so much.
“We took a shot. (That’s) not to say we won’t do it again. I do know he’s going to be getting closer to being a full outfielder with every day. He didn’t do anything to hurt his progress.”
There is precedent in St. Louis for using an ailing outfielder. Albert Pujols played left field in 2003 with a torn ligament in his elbow.
“That was kind of our explanation,” Matheny said. “It has been done; it can be done. You better be smart. It seems (Grichuk) has a good grasp of it.”
Grichuk said he knew Tuesday night that he could be in the field Wednesday. The plan was to have Heyward help on balls to right-center and Piscotty on balls in left-center. Second baseman Matt Carpenter, meanwhile, was told to range deeper into center to serve as Grichuk’s cutoff man on balls that didn’t involve Heyward or Piscotty.
Grichuk was activated Monday, with the idea being he wouldn’t be in the field for a week or two. He has thrown for just two days since his DL stint, both times from 60 to 70 feet.
“It was a different situation, obviously,” Grichuk said of playing with throwing limitations. “I’ve never played in that situation. The ball finds you, and it found me today. It’s a lot different. You look at the game in a different perspective, I guess. You’ve got to figure out situations before they happen, what you’re going to do if the ball’s hit this way or that way.”
Broxton on fire
Jonathan Broxton, the Cardinals’ fourth pitcher, struck out the side in the eighth and wound up the winner after Trevor Rosenthal’s one-two-three ninth that gave him 43 saves.
“I’ve been feeling good since I got here,” said Broxton, acquired from Milwaukee on July 31. “I’m just going out there and giving everything I’ve got every day. I was just out there throwing whatever Yadi (Molina) put down. It’s a big win after the way the first two went and the way this one started off. We could have laid down and crumbled, but there’s a lot of fight in this room.”