Shake-ups to Cardinals’ batting order spark offensive surge for St. Louis

ST. LOUIS — The first major shake-up to the Cardinals’ batting order worked out quite well for two outfielders expected to be key contributors this season.

Jon Jay and Jason Heyward offer plenty of versatility to go with proven track records, and both say they’re happy to hit anywhere in the lineup. The two left-handed hitters joined a parade of baserunners early to spoil Philadelphia rookie Severino Gonzalez’s debut in an 11-5 win to snap St. Louis’ two-game losing streak.

Manager Mike Matheny couldn’t help but smile when asked about his changes after the Cardinals smashed their previous high of seven runs on 15 hits, 10 of which came against Gonzalez in the first 2 2/3 innings. Pitcher Michael Wacha delivered the final blow with a two-out RBI single to extend the lead to 7-2.

The new look started with Jay taking Matt Carpenter’s usual leadoff spot. It didn’t bother the red-hot third baseman, who went 2 for 4 with a double and a triple behind Jay, another one of five St. Louis hitters to have a multi-hit game.

"I’ve hit everywhere," said Jay, who hit RBI singles in the second and fifth innings. "Obviously, I’ve led off a lot, but I think we have a lot of guys that can hit anywhere in the lineup, so whatever the lineup’s going to be we’re going to go out there and have tough at-bats."

Anyone able to get on base in front Carpenter and Matt Holliday right now can be valuable, with the Cardinals’ top two hitters both among the National League’s top six in batting average. Matheny said Jay’s approach doesn’t differ much from Carpenter’s, who is highly effective working the count.

Even when Jay failed to reach base in his first at-bat of the game, he did his part to tell his teammates what to expect from the Phillies’ young righthander. By the time Heyward came up as the team’s sixth hitter, rather than his usual second spot, the Cardinals already seemed to have Gonzalez figured out.

"I felt like we did a good job of jumping out early with good at-bats and then putting the ball in play hard," said Heyward, who reached base four times and scored three runs. "I feel like that’s the best thing you could do, against a new pitcher especially, and then not coming out of our strike zone tonight."

Heyward learned about his movement down in the order Monday night, shortly after he struck out as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning. Heyward left Sunday’s game in Milwaukee with a hamstring strain and didn’t start Monday for the first time all season, though the right fielder said he would have been ready.

Three walks showed a positive step forward for Heyward, who came into the game with just one walk and a .205 average through his first 18 games. Matheny said before Tuesday’s win that he made the lineup changes largely to spark the former Brave, and the move certainly paid off.

"It’s hard to argue with 15, 16 hits and 11 runs," said Heyward, whose leadoff single through the right side sparked a three-run rally in the second inning. "I like it, though. Our lineup’s flexible."

You can follow Luke Thompson on Twitter at @FS_LukeT or email him at lukegthompson87@gmail.com.