Adams counters infield shift with bunt single

First baseman makes D-backs pay, comes around to score

Adams counters infield shift with bunt single

ST. LOUIS -- Capitalizing on the element of surprise and trusting in all the behind-the-scenes work he had done to refine his technique, Matt Adams foiled a defensive shift by laying a bunt down the third-base line in Monday's 3-2, 10-inning victory.

The execution had been a long time coming, as Adams' last successful bunt (sacrifice or not) had come back in his days as a catcher at Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania. Groomed as a middle-of-the-order hitter, Adams was not asked to bunt in the Minors. He likely would not have been with the Cardinals, either, had teams not begun enticing him.

With clubs increasingly shifting Adams to pull the ball to right field, they have left him all sorts of open area between third and short. Manager Mike Matheny has been imploring Adams to use that to his advantage and drop down bunts more frequently, but until Monday, the only successful attempt Adams had was in a Grapefruit League game.

"I was super excited in Spring Training to get one down, but it feels even better to get it down when it counts," Adams said. "I went into Spring Training wanting to work on it. I'm going to pick my places to do it and try to find the right opportunities to try and get one down. But some teams, they don't do the shift as much as [Arizona]. You have to see where the guys are playing."

Adams picked his spot wisely, choosing to attempt the bunt when he was leading off an inning and against a pitcher (Chase Anderson) who the Cardinals knew liked to throw first-pitch fastballs. The D-backs are also a team that deployed the shift against Adams from the start of the at-bat, instead of waiting, as the Royals did over the weekend, until Adams had a strike against him.

Having Adams as a baserunner proved key for the Cardinals, too, as he ended up scoring on a two-out single by Jason Heyward in that fourth inning.

"He doesn't need to be a world-class bunter," Matheny said. "He can square around before the pitcher makes his first move and still be able to push a bunt to third base without having much touch or anything else. He just needs direction, and if he put the ball toward third base and past the pitcher, he's going to have a base hit.

"Now every time he does that, he makes everyone have to rethink it, not just the Diamondbacks, but every other team. Hopefully that's something he keeps in his bag, especially for times like this when the hits aren't coming as easy as he'd like. It's a great way to help our club and help himself."

The Cardinals saw the play work against them last year, when both Anthony Rizzo and Adrian Gonzalez nullified shifts with a bunt. The Cardinals readjusted their defensive alignment against both hitters in subsequent at-bats.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.