ST. LOUIS — The Cardinals have fought for consistency going into the stretch, locked in what feels like an eternal struggle with the Brewers for the NL Central title.
Their best weapon in the second half has been Jon Jay. Lately seems every time there’s a Cardinal run, the Miami native has a hand-or a foot- in it.
Mike Matheny was concise in his discussion of Jay’s surge, saying simply, “It’s the same conversation we’ve been having since February.”
In fairness, the manager has maintained his confidence in the outfielder since the season began, emphasizing his versatility and praising his bat throughout the season. However, the current conversation is about a player far more compelling than just a solid piece to the team. The first half was solid for the utility outfielder. He posted a .286 average with 22 RBIs. The second half finds him nearly unstoppable.
Jay is hitting .372 since the break, with an OPS of nearly .944. He’s been an offensive force in the past two weeks, scoring 10 runs and driving in 7. He’s hitting .397 in August, leading the major leagues.
Boiled down to the most impressive stat, since August 9, Jay has only five games in which he did not score AND did not drive in a run. He’s done one or the other 14 times and done both seven times.
As pinch hitter, he’s driven in four runs; 21 percent of St. Louis’ total PH RBIs. All four tied the game or took the lead and three of them came in August. Two took the lead on August 14 against San Diego, and a third tied Monday’s game in Pittsburgh.
He’s played well in the outfield, coming out seven runs above average while manning three different positions.
“He can fit in a couple different spots. Not afraid to throw him in there early, not afraid to throw him in there late,” Matheny said in Pittsburgh. “He’s a pro, he knows how to handle whatever spot we put him in the lineup.”
Jay is always humble when asked about his performance. He prides himself on his consistency and it’s never more evident than in his modesty when discussing his success.
When asked why August once again finds him among the league’s best hitters, Jay remained unchanging in his response.
“I don’t know,” he smiled. “I don’t know, no idea. I’m just going out there trying to play hard like I always do.”
His steady play is one reason the Cardinals are nine games above .500, despite posting a run differential of -17. For a club that has seen enough one-run games for a lifetime, the Cardinals are looking at a tense stretch run if they want to make the playoffs.
“Every game is so important right now,” Jay said. “Just have to keep playing hard, and every game is a big game.”
Luckily for St. Louis, the 25-year-old is playing like it’s already October.