PITTSBURGH –– Pete Kozma is no Carlos Beltran or David Freese when it comes to postseason heroics but, like his celebrated teammates, the rookie shortstop has a knack for rising to the occasion this time of year.
As a result, Kozma is back into the Cardinals’ starting lineup for Monday afternoon’s NLDS Game 4 even though the Pirates are starting a right-hander, Charlie Morton. Since Kozma’s average dropped to .212 on Sept. 1, he had lost most of the playing time at shortstop to Daniel Descalso against right-handers.
But since ending an 0-for-32 skid Sept. 6, Kozma is hitting .306 including a 2-for-3 with a run, walk and stolen base in Sunday’s 5-3 loss in Pittsburgh. Over the past two Septembers and Octobers, Kozma is hitting .289, 72 points better than his regular-season average this season.
“Pete had a good day yesterday and he also has had a little bit of success off of Morton,” manager Mike Matheny said at a pregame presser Monday.
Kozma, who will bat eighth, is 2 for 6 off Morton while, perhaps more telling, Descalso is 0 for 10 with three walks.
The rest of the Cardinals lineup for the elimination game includes the same players as Game 3 but back in the usual batting order against right-handers. That is, Matt Adams moves back into the cleanup spot, with Yadier Molina fifth, Jon Jay sixth and David Freese seventh.
The Cardinals considered another change for Game 4. Matheny said the team talked “early on” about starting Adam Wainwright on short rest but decided to stick with rookie right-hander Michael Wacha.
“There were thoughts,” Matheny said. “We have faith in our guys. We have faith in Michael Wacha to go out there and give us a good start and get us back home where we can let Adam pitch in a Game 5. That’s the original plan.”
Wacha, who will be making just his 10th big-league start, came within one out of no-hitting the Nationals in his most recent start, Sept. 24.
“You put him in a high-leverage situation and watch a young kid perform like that, you’re anxious to get him back out there,” Matheny said.
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