(BaseballStL) -- Moments after Allen Craig hobbled from the Cardinals dugout during the player introductions before Game 1, Matt Adams came running down the line of bench players, coaches and trainers.
That single moment summed up why Adams, and not Craig, was in the starting lineup.
It’s been like that since Craig, who started a team-high 90 games at first base, suffered an injury to his left foot on September 4. And it will have to remain like that through at least the NLDS and possibly longer if the team advances.
The duties of filling in for the team’s top run producer and the league’s top hitter with runners in scoring position rests on the shoulders of the 6-foot-3, 260-pound Adams. Adams has done his part, and then some.
In 24 games since Craig went down, Adams helped the team to 18 wins with a .326 average, eight home runs, 15 runs batted in and 19 runs.
“It felt good, but we missed Allen, for sure,” Adams said before Game 2. “Getting the everyday at bats and playing every day out on the field, it definitely helps out big time, especially for the postseason.”
Adams blasted 17 home runs, third best on the team, in 296 at-bats spread over 108 games. Opposing team’s took notice of his pull habits and started to shift toward the right side of the infield when the left-handed bopper came to the plate. For a younger player, Adams understands what would be a base hit for a spray hitter isn’t as likely to be a hit for him.
“It was actually playing these guys earlier in the year at home here,” Adams recalled. “It was a close game. I think we were down 2-1, and Neil Walker moved right before the pitch out into shallow right field, and I hit a slider right to him. As soon as I hit it, I thought it was going to be a hit, and I looked up, and it was just a line drive right to him.”
As Adam’s offensive prowl evolves with more at-bats, his defense is starting to receive attention as he’s committed only two errors in 650 total chances at first base (.997 fielding percentage). The October recognition began with extra defensive work put in at spring training.
An example of his improved defense came in the fourth inning of Game 2 when he nabbed a sharp ground ball hit by Neil Walker near the base line for an unassisted out. Seemingly nothing has gotten past the burly first baseman.
“As soon as I got in, Mark DeJohn, our infield coordinator, was a manager at the time,” Adams said. “We worked hard at spring training just making sure we got good at the footwork and making sure we made the routine plays, and the other stuff would come. That's what Jose (Oquendo) hit on, too, this year in spring training, just making sure we made the routine plays and everything else would come.”
Adams returns to his native state Pennsylvania when the series shifts to Pittsburgh for Game 3 on Sunday.
“It will be neat to play close to my hometown,” Adams said. “But more focused on getting the W rather than going home and playing in front of friends and family.”
Game 3 in Pittsburgh will start at 3:30 p.m. (St. Louis time) on Sunday.
Scott Bierman covers the Cardinals, Blues and Rams for KMOV.com and its associated mobile apps (BaseballStL, HockeyStL and FootballStL). You can follow him on Twitter @Scott_Bierman for St. Louis sports news and updates.