(BaseballStL) — When Kolten Wong envisioned his experience as a St. Louis Cardinal, Tuesday night’s game was exactly what he hoped it would be. On the field at least.
Wong dazzled with defensive plays not seen in recent memory, going deep behind second to throw out one runner, twisting one double play on a difficult reverse pivot and beating a speedy Jacoby Ellsbury to the bag for an unassisted out.
Wong's play helped Lance Lynn hit a career milestone. Read how here.
Wong has become much more comfortable since his return from Triple A, his confidence manifesting itself with outstanding defense as evidenced by his seven plays Tuesday night in the Cardinals 6-0 win over the New York Yankees.
“I think I’m playing my game now,” said the 23-year-old first round draft pick whose second trip to the big club has been defined by a more confident, aggressive approach.
“When the season started I think I was living in the limelight of playing in the big leagues. When I came back, I started playing my game, the way I know how to play. As a result, I’m more aggressive and confident.”
That confidence and outstanding defense was not lost on starting pitcher Lance Lynn who threw his first complete game shutout as a professional. “You don't see many guys who throw complete games without good defense and plays behind them,” Lynn said.
Wong’s turnaround did not come easily and the youngster is now fully aware that it takes more work to stay in the majors than it does to get to the majors.
“Yeah, this was a great night,” Wong said. “I’m just constantly trying to get better at second base. I work hard on playing the position and getting the turns right.”
Those turns resulted in one double play and one near twin killing on a ball hit by Derek Jeter, whose sprint down the line barely beat Jhonny Peralta’s relay throw.
The highlight reel play came in the second inning on a ball hit by Brian Price behind second base which Wong fielded and threw in one motion which Matt Adams extended the entire length of his six foot, three inch frame to nail Roberts by an eyelash.
Wong also showed what difference speed can make in the fourth inning when Ellsbury slapped a ground ball just out of the reach of Adams who ranged far to his right. Wong snared the ball and with no other option, raced Ellsbury to the bag, beating him and snuffing out any chance of a rally.
“That was a tough play,” Wong said. “It was a foot race and I think I might have been closer to the bag.”
Wong’s effort has not been lost on Cardinal skipper Mike Matheny.
“I just see a player that’s confident,” he said after Tuesday’s win. “I think he’s loose. He’s looking to wow us and he’s doing it. I mean, those two plays…. He comes in and throws on the run as well as anybody I’ve seen in a while. To be able to make that reverse pivot; he makes a very tough play look very easy.”