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Harrison Bader could be the key guy to get the St. Louis Cardinals to the playoffs

Harrison Bader has a memorable debut

Cardinals rookie Harrison Bader doubles for his first major league hit and scores the winning run in 3-2 victory over Colorado.
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Cardinals rookie Harrison Bader doubles for his first major league hit and scores the winning run in 3-2 victory over Colorado.

St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Harrison Bader deserved a ticket to the minor leagues because of the way he was struggling at the plate.

But he earned the chance to come back to the big leagues by making the best of his situation, using the opportunity to get his swing back in order. And he showed he deserves to be in the lineup Tuesday night by producing both at the plate and with his glove, taking a run or two off the board with his deft defense.

I’m not in favor of handing a starting job to anyone and just letting it ride. The best thing for the Cardinals right now would be having several guys making a case for playing time. While Bader’s bat hasn’t been great this year, he’s the best defensive outfielder on the St. Louis roster. He can also make things happen on the bases with his speed. It’s a nice balance with Jose Martinez, who typically is a decent hitter but a lousy fielder. I say “typically” because his bat has been taking a prolonged nap lately.

Dexter Fowler has been a mixed bag, hitting fairly well this year and playing passable outfield defense. But Bader, when he’s right, could be a defensive replacement for either Fowler or Martinez to make St. Louis a more dynamic team.

The roster flexibility paid off against the Milwaukee Brewers. The Cardinals were able to find the matchups they wanted against the Brewers bullpen and deploy a solid defensive arrangement.

It’s encouraging to see more of the pieces coming together. Paul Goldschmidt is hitting much better and the last six weeks are probably the best month and a half of Kolten Wong’s career. The only guys who don’t seem to be getting with the program are Matt Carpenter and Miles Mikolas.

Carpenter is dropping dangerously close to .200 and can’t hold a candle to the other third base options defensively. Yairo Munoz and Tommy Edman are both much better in terms of range and with their arms.

Some fans are upset that they didn’t think prospect Randy Arozarena got enough of a chance to show what he can do. But let’s not forget that the Cardinals are trying to win their division. With 38 games to play and a half-game lead, this is no time to get overly creative.

The St. Louis Cardinals traded two players to the Miami Marlins for Marcell Ozuna during the 2017 baseball offseason. He'll be a free agent after the 2019 season.

Cardinals need to re-sign Marcell Ozuna

Someone else who has been effective since his return from the injured list is outfielder Marcell Ozuna. It seems that a lot of people have given up on the idea of re-signing him at the end of the season. Although he has had his struggles during his brief time with the Cardinal, I’d hate to see St. Louis give up on a guy who can do a lot of good things for the club.

Is he a Gold Glove outfielder anymore? It doesn’t seem like it. But he can handle the leather, hit for average and power and run well for a slugger. Add some front of the rotation pitching, get closer Jordan Hicks back and keep the kids moving forward and this might be a formidable team in 2020 and beyond.

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