ST. LOUIS — A baseball game is made up of a lot of little moments, each steering the game in one direction or the other.
Many times, there is one instance that observers remember as a defining play. Some swing or catch that, had it gone another way, would have wholly changed the trajectory of the night.
If one had to choose Tuesday, that moment came in the fourth inning.
With two outs in a 2-2 game, Ike Davis notched a single to bring up Starling Marte. The outfielder sent a ball screaming down the right field line and Davis was steaming around second.
Randal Grichuk came roaring in, leapt parallel to the ground, and snared the ball before it could bounce. The play ended the inning and saved a run, preserving the tie.
“Once I saw it hit over there, I felt like a got a pretty good jump on it,” Grichuk said at his locker. “Instincts kind of took over.”
Allowing instincts to guide you can be something young players struggle with early in the majors. The stadiums are bigger, the crowds are louder and the game is being played at its highest level.
“I think part of is getting used to and accustomed to the fact you belong here,” Mike Matheny said of Grichuk’s improved play.
For the 23-year-old, that mental shift has paid dividends. He has gone 8-for-20 since returning to MLB action on August 26, contributing regularly to the offense as well as in the field..
“Coming up here and struggling the first couple times being in the big leagues- you know you can’t go any higher than this- definitely brings your confidence down,” he said. “This time I tried to come up here with a little bit more confidence, swing the bat a little more aggressively and it’s paid off so far.”
The Cardinals would go on to put up three runs in the bottom half of the inning after Grichuk’s web gem, eventually winning 6-4. When Marte homered in the seventh, for a time Grichuk’s run saved was the difference between a tie and the St. Louis lead.
At the plate, the rookie went 3-for-4, recording three singles and lifting his average in the majors to .219.
Grichuk’s consistent play in right is something the Cardinals have been searching for for some time. Since Allen Craig departed for Boston, the spot has been manned by Jon Jay, Oscar Taveras and Shane Robinson. Jay’s main post is in center, Robinson is now lost for the season to injury and Taveras’ struggles at the plate make him a tough choice for everyday starter. Grichuk’s defense appears more polished than the 22-year-old Taveras as well.
“He’s an aggressive player, throws the ball well. Every aspect of the game, he’s got a real nice knack for,” Matheny said of Grichuk after Tuesday’s win.
The Cardinals hold a two game lead on the Brewers in the NL Central following the win, with a four game set scheduled to begin Thursday. Grichuk is 1-for-7 against Milwaukee in three games this season.