(BaseballStL) – Wednesday was a night of headline fodder. David Freese hit a home run. Adam Wainwright pitched a complete game gem. Matt Adams caused alarms to go off at FAA headquarters with his eighth inning blast. Champagne was sprayed and hugs were had.
Perhaps unnoticed, certainly less so, Pete Kozma continued to play stunning defense.
In a game that very well could have been decided by one swing of the bat for most of the action, Kozma played steady. He turned double plays, he ended innings and he brought 47,000 to their feet with a pair of web gems in the fourth inning.
"He's a tremendous defensive player," said GM John Mozeliak in the clubhouse Wednesday night. "He made a couple plays- especially one- that very few make."
Following a highlight reel catch by Starling Marte that robbed Matt Carpenter of extra bases, Kozma answered with a mind-bending show of range at shortstop.
To lead off the inning, Neil Walker lined a ball up the middle, 10 feet right of the second base bag. Kozma broke into a full sprint, crossed second base, laid out completely and caught the ball sliding into right field.
You can watch the play here.
It seemed almost impossible the Cardinal shortstop could make the play given where he began, but his Superman act brought the crowd to its feet and fired up pitcher Adam Wainwright.
"When you're executing pitches and your defense is rewarding you, it makes you that much more easy to go out and keep doing it," Wainwright said. "I think it's the first time in my career I fist pumped after the first out of an inning."
Kozma wasn't done. Two batters later, Justin Morneau hit a hard grounder in the hole. This time moving to his right, Kozma backhanded the ball running fill-tilt. In one motion, he squared his shoulders and fired a rope across the diamond to end the inning. It was a display not only of range and dexterity, but upper echelon arm strength.
Mozeliak has vocally supported Kozma as a tremendous asset all season. Even as the offensive half of his game struggled, the GM never wavered.
"Pete's always somebody we believed in," Mozeliak said. "I also would say from the offensive standpoint, I always felt like we had enough around him that he didn't have to focus on that or let that be a concern."
Adding to Mozeliak's prescience as a Kozma supporter, the 25-year-old's bat has begun to match his glove in the postseason.
So far, the Oklahoma native has gone 4-for-10 with a double and an RBI. As the Dodgers roll into town, it's worth noting Kozma's best offensive day of the season came off NL Cy Young lock Clayton Kershaw.
In a May 26 matchup, Kozma went 4-for-4 with three doubles and three RBIs.
For Mozeliak, the key to the young infielder's success will come not only from confidence in himself, but the continued support of the organization.
"You look at what he did last year in those six, seven weeks- his confidence was very high, and he should take advantage of that," he said. "He knows he's going to get chances with us."