With another pair of hits in Tuesday’s 3-2 victory over Washington, St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Jose Martinez has raised his batting average to .364 this season. That would rank him fourth in all of baseball, but he entered the night eight plate appearances shy of qualifying.
“It’s just a great time to go out there and be productive,” downplayed Martinez before the team’s roadtrip. “Especially when sometimes they might be going around Ozuna. When those situations happen, I’m actually concentrating to go out there and be productive. Like I said, I’m going to say productive because that’s what it’s all about. Like I’ve said, everybody’s working for each other.”
There is some truth to his statement–the Cardinals have racked up a franchise best 19 wins before the end of April and nine different players have provided the game-winning RBI. Martinez has one of those and he’s notched eight multi-hit games, second only to Paul DeJong (11).
All of that offense being said, as Harrison Bader and Tyler O’Neill neared return from the injured list, Cardinals manager Mike Shildt acknowledged that the team could not “forget that side of the ball” when it came to defense.
“Let’s don’t kid ourselves, it’s definitely a decision that needs to be made everyday,” Shildt said. “We’ve won games with Jose starting and he’s definitely a presence in the lineup and there’s no question about that. And we’ve won games when he’s come off the bench and been able to be a producer at that point so a lot of different options. It’s good to have options.”
“I actually was expecting to go back to the bench,” Martinez admitted. “Harry’s a great player. O’Neill is a great player and everybody knows they can help and what they bring to our team. Just going out there and trying to do my job and trying to make a difference.”
But rather than move Martinez back to the bench, Shildt has continued to start him right field the last 10 games and make a defensive replacement later in games as needed. Martinez has responded by hitting .462 (18-39) with a home run and eight runs driven in.
“It means a lot,” said Martinez of the confidence being shown in him by Shildt. “Any chance that they’re going to give you, you have to take advantage. That’s the story of my life, my whole career. I’m going to say it a thousand times–that guy right there, I respect him so much because he will be clear to you. What he’s going to do, what he’s not going to do. From now, you just have to take the opportunity to play and go out there and try to help the team win.”
photo credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports