ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- It’s not perfect, but Randal Grichuk’s swing is getting closer to what he’s seeking in 2017.
“I feel better now than when I started obviously,” he said Thursday, just an hour after his two-run shot tied the game in the bottom of the ninth.
It was his third homer of the season, but his first in the last 13 games. Like most of the Cardinals, Grichuk’s start to the year has been sluggish. In his first 57 plate appearances, he was hitting .185, slugging .333 and had 20 strikeouts to his three walks.
Then last Friday, he began carving out a modicum of success. His RBI double off the Brewers’ Wily Peralta began a six-game hitting streak, replete with four doubles, four RBIs and now, a game-saving homer.
“I think I made some strides in Milwaukee as far as seeing the ball better, more mechanically sound with my swing and setup,” Grichuk said. “Still got a ways to go.”
The outfielder has struck out four times in the last four games, and has continued to display less-than-optimal plate discipline with disappointing frequency, especially given it was his area of focus this spring.
Still, he’s begun to find success, and Thursday came off the bench to give the Cardinals life with a pinch-hit, RBI single in the seventh and stave off defeat with his homer in the ninth.
It’s a much-needed string of victories for Grichuk, who is the purest power hitter on the team and the bat earmarked as the biggest potential difference-maker in a lineup needing a boost from 2016.
“He’s a dangerous hitter. We needed that lift to say the least,” Mike Matheny said. “He’s going to be a top-tier hitter. He just has to work, right? We’ve been saying that. That’s been our go-to phrase, our go-to word. But he knows what he needs to do. He knows how the opposition is attacking him and the things that he needs to improve on. He’s not that far from getting it really figured out. Once he gets to a pitch in the zone that he’s really looking for, it’s amazing what he can do with it.”
Speaking of amazing, Matt Carpenter finished game one of the double header with an exclamation point, belting a towering grand slam to walk it off in the 11th inning. It was his first career grand slam, and it was memorable; he swung so easily and sent it soaring so high, the celebration began before the ball reached its apex.
“Honestly that whole at-bat I was looking for that pitch. if I wasn’t then it might not have gotten to 3-2,” Carpenter said of the knuckle curve he belted 403 feet to right field. “He threw me a couple fastballs to hit, but I just didn’t think in that scenario that I was going to get a fastball to hit, and he got ahead of me with a fastball. I stayed with my approach, continued to battle. Got it into an even count and he finally threw what I was looking for.”
It was a good sign for the scuffing hit machine, who came into the game with a .236 average and a .726 OPS.
He’s had spurts of productivity over the first 20 games, but hasn’t gotten the engine to roar the way he has in seasons past.
“I feel like I’m seeing the ball pretty well, doing a good job of getting on base, but haven’t strung together a bunch of hits or extra-base hits. I don’t feel bad, but I don’t feel great either,” the three-time All Star said. “I think that’s just kind of the early season still trying to find a groove. Hopefully today will start sending me in that right direction.”
“He hasn’t been that far off. We just get accustomed to him putting the ball in play and grinding through at-bats,” Matheny added. “Something like what he just did could get anybody on a real good run. It’s perfect timing.”