(BaseballStL) — Allen Craig, the RBI machine from 2013’s NL champion Cardinals, had an ugly start to 2014.
Through the team’s first 24 games, he hit just .170. His 15 hits were outpaced by 16 strikeouts and he had driven in five runners.
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Then he picked up a hit in game two against Pittsburgh, and another in game three with an RBI to boot. The tide was turning.
Baseball’s best Milwaukee Brewers came calling after that, and though the series was a drain on the Cardinals, it seemed to prove the final turn in Craig’s winding road back to form.
In the series opener he hit a homer along with a single, adding to his RBI total as well as drawing two walks. St. Louis would lose in extra innings, but the right fielder appeared to be in control of every at-bat, something he says is a product of a consistent approach.
“I just try to take it one at bat at a time, one pitch at a time. As cliche as that sounds, I’m trying to keep things simple and just focus on the job I have to do,” he said.
The next game, another extra-inning affair, saw Craig continue his upward trend. He notched an RBI triple and scored, as well as worked a deep-count walk to set the stage for a three-run homer early in the contest. Afterward, Mike Matheny said the guy at the plate was beginning to look familiar.
"It’s looking more like Allen Craig for sure,” he said Tuesday night. “The at-bats he’s taking are looking much more consistent.”
Part of Craig’s rough start was a bit of bad luck. His batting average on balls in play, .345 from 2010-2013, was down to .214 before Wednesday. That meant when he was hitting the ball, it was having a tough time finding a landing spot that wasn’t a mitt.
“I’ve been feeling pretty good at the plate for a little while now,” he said. “Frustration is part of it, things are going to turn around.”
If anyone was looking for an indication things had made that 360, Wednesday’s day game was a fine example.
The 29-year-old went 4-for-5, picking up three RBIs on two doubles and a home run. It was the fifth time in his career he hit safely four times in a game.
Coming in he was hitting .192, something that has to be grating to see on the scoreboard no matter a player’s experience level.
“I think that everybody is aware of the averages and what’s going on, but that’s something I try not to put too much stock in,” Craig said. “It’s early in the season and things can change quickly.”
They sure can. After Wednesday, his average is all the way up to .220.