(Busch Stadium) The extra base hits are becoming more regular again for Paul DeJong, who recorded his second career triple as the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Chicago Cubs 5-2 last night. It was his fifth extra base hit since the All-Star break.
“I think it took me a few games to get my timing and rhythm back coming off the DL,” said DeJong. “Lately I feel like I’ve been hitting the ball hard, getting in good counts, not striking out a lot so I think moving forward, I’m feeling good.”
Since Mike Shildt took over as manager, DeJong has returned to the third spot in the lineup. It’s a comfortable spot for the shortstop, who hit their the end of last season and for much of his minor league career. There’s also the benefit of watching Matt Carpenter and Yadier Molina’s approach in front of him.
“Last year, I got some invaluable experience being able to basically play in the 3-hole everyday,” said DeJong. “This year, I feel like that’s a good spot for me and lately, I feel like that’s my identity. Moving forward I’m just going to continue to try to have good at-bats. Carp and Yadi have been doing a good job ahead of me. Getting guys on base is big.”
Since returning from the DL on July 6th, DeJong has hit safely in 14 of 17 games. And as that rhythm and timing has returned, so too has the power–he’s driven in 7 runs in the last six games.
“Pulling the ball for me is always an accident, or at least I try to stay through the middle of the field,” said DeJong. “For me, it’s about staying relaxed and calm and trusting myself and lately I’ve been doing that.”
Last night that paid off with three hits, including a double into right field, that resulted in a triple as DeJong kept running and made the proper read on the play at the plate.
“I could’ve definitely been out but I’ll take an out for a run there,” said DeJong. “I’m trying to get better at baserunning. I thought it was a good read for me to go to third. I end up scoring on the next pitch when Jose gets a base hit and scores me. The little stuff like that can really, especially trying to get out of the double play, going to second on throws, those are the little things we need to keep working on and try to take advantage of.”
To improve on the baserunning, DeJong has been working with Willie McGee and Jose Oquendo.
“Basically trying to take those extra bases, but it’s more about running with your head up and running hard out of the box,” he shared. “I think Shildt said earlier about guys get those extra bases based on their home to first as opposed to trying to make up for it. Just going hard out of the box, trying to read the throws is really what I’m focusing on.”
photo credit: David Banks, Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports