Reynolds' blast caps off big day in win over Royals

BY foxsports • June 13, 2015

ST. LOUIS -- Sliding into first base doesn't often work as an effective baseball play, except for baserunners trying to avoid getting picked off.

Mark Reynolds perfectly executed it twice over the span of an inning, first for a two-out infield single in the third that led to his game-tying run, then again a few minutes later to beat Alex Gordon to first base for an out. But no sliding would be needed in the fifth inning, when Reynolds connected on Jeremy Guthrie's hanging curveball for a solo shot that held up for a 3-2 Cardinals win over Kansas City on Saturday afternoon.

"I figured it was either out or it was going to be a can of corn, so I just jogged anyways," Reynolds said. "I barreled it, but I hit it straight up into the air and it's nice that it's a little warmer out now and the balls are carrying a little better."

Gordon could only stand by the fence and watch as the ball sailed 379 feet, comfortably into the left-field bleachers. It ended a drought of 66 at-bats for Reynolds since his last home run, another solo blast in a 10-2 win over the Mets on May 19.

He remains well off the pace needed to reach 20 home runs for his seventh straight season, in part because he began the year as the Cardinals' most dangerous bat off the bench. But Reynolds has provided plenty beyond his four home runs, especially since St. Louis lost first baseman Matt Adams to a quad strain that could keep him out for the rest of the year.

"We know he's got big power, and he's going to bump into quite a few," manager Mike Matheny says. "Nice job at first base, and he just continues to take good at-bats for us."

Reynolds says he's made putting the ball in play more of a focus. Even though his strikeout rate of 29.4 percent sits just 2 percent below his career numbers, the change in approach could be reflected in his batting average.

After losing his status as an everyday player when he hit a career-worst .196 for the Brewers a year ago, Reynolds has found a way to get those numbers well above his lifetime average of .230. Since Adams' injury May 26, his replacement is batting .268 with two doubles and 13 strikeouts in 56 at-bats, a rate of only 23 percent.

Matheny said Reynolds also brings an underappreciated glove to first base. He picked up a few more low throws Saturday and second baseman Kolten Wong says Reynolds' experience shows on the Cardinals' infield.

When starter Tyler Lyons got a late break on Gordon's groundball in the top of the fourth, Reynolds quickly realized he'd have to win a race to the bag and needed to slide to avoid a collision. He faced the same conundrum the previous inning, when a wild throw pulled Kansas City first baseman Kendrys Morales off the bag and Reynolds made an athletic hook slide to eke out his seventh infield single of the season, tied with Jason Heyward for the team lead.

"Mark doesn't like to show it all the time, but he does some pretty cool plays and some pretty incredible plays and he has it in him," Wong said. "He's a veteran. He knows how to control his surroundings and control his energy output, but he uses it at the right time."

That sense of timing often seems to apply to his most important hits as well. Three of his last four RBIs have been game-winners, and St. Louis is 14-1 when Reynolds drives in a run, including a remarkable 10-9 comeback win against the Cubs sparked by his first-inning grand slam when the Cardinals trailed 5-0.

He's not worried about the lack of long balls, although he's hoping Saturday will "kick-start" his proven power.  But his solid contact hitting and defense should put to rest the debate over whether St. Louis needs to find a new first baseman in the immediate future.

"He knows how to play this game and he's been doing a great job filling in for Big City," Wong said. "We're just happy to have him on the team and him doing what he's doing."

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


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