Diaz Shines as Cardinals Flip the Switch on Offense (Copy)

By Goold, Derrick | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), April 9, 2017 | Go to article overview

Diaz Shines as Cardinals Flip the Switch on Offense (Copy)


Goold, Derrick, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


A day before the swing that broke the game open and illuminated the possibilities within the Cardinals' lineup, shortstop Aledmys Diaz knocked a light out.

Shards of glass trickling down into left field was the clue.

During batting practice on Friday, as the Cardinals still fumbled for the switch on their offense, Diaz drilled a baseball into the "BIG MAC LAND" sign at Busch Stadium and shattered the "G." When night fell and Cincinnati's shutout commenced, the broken "G" was a lot like the Cardinals' production at the plate: dim. Diaz put two more shots in the direction of "BIG MAC LAND" on Saturday, each falling short of the sign but meaning much more. His two home runs into the left-field seats put the Cardinals ahead early and Cincinnati away later.

Diaz's first career two-homer jam spurred a 10-4 victory at Busch that gave the Cardinals more runs in eight innings than they had in the four previous games this season, combined.

"Somebody had to get it going," manager Mike Matheny said. "And he just decided to do it twice."

The offensive uprising backed starter Michael Wacha, even as he contributed to it. Wacha completed the Cardinals' first turn through the rotation with six stout innings. He was relentless in the strike zone, throwing 28 strikes in his first 36 pitches as he retired nine of the first 10 batters he faced. Wacha would drop the rotation's ERA down to 1.71 through five starts, and yet become the first of the Cardinals' starters to get a win this season. He received as much run support Saturday as the previous four had in their 25 2/3 innings.

He gave some, too.

In the fourth inning, Cincinnati veteran Bronson Arroyo clung to a 2-1 deficit when he faced Wacha with two outs. Wacha poked an RBI single up the middle, and two batters later Diaz followed with a three-run shot. Arroyo tested Diaz with a 70-mph breaking ball, then came back with a 73-mph slider that Diaz was able to drive. His homer, the Cardinals' third of the season, hugged the left-field line and never hooked foul.

"We always say that, 'How does he keep that fair?'" infielder Jedd Gyorko said. "He's just able to do it. That's one of the most impressive swings I've seen in a long time. There's a guy who you can tell is going to be a staple at the top of the lineup. The situation never seems to get too big for him. He's a steady hand right there at the top."

That top of the lineup is the engine of all things for the Cardinals' offense, built around two of the finest leadoff hitters in the National League the past few years. Wedged between Dexter Fowler and Matt Carpenter is Diaz, and that trident had lacked poke so far this week. The top three hitters in the Cardinals' lineup, entered Saturday nine for 48 (.188) with 13 times on base and a whopping four runs scored. Their only two extra-base hits belonged to Diaz. On Saturday, the trio reached base seven times and scored five.

Further slowing the opening offense was a lack of pop whenever a Cardinal did get into scoring position. …

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