Kozma enjoys opportunity with three-hit night

Kozma enjoys opportunity with three-hit night

MIAMI -- Anytime backup shortstop Pete Kozma sees action, the 27-year-old has one simple goal.

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"Just trying to find ways to help us win," he said.

Not only did Kozma help the Cardinals earn a 5-1 win over the Marlins on Thursday night, but he was an offensive catalyst while filling in for Jhonny Peralta. In his 33rd appearance of the year -- and just his 11th start -- Kozma went 3-for-3 and was hit by a pitch, while scoring two runs and notching an RBI.

"It's huge," manager Mike Matheny said. "Jhonny needed a day and anytime he can take a day and we get some production ... Pete was great offensively and the defensive play he made up the middle [in the seventh on J.T. Realmuto's grounder] was fantastic. Just a good day all the way around for him."

Kozma's spinning play

Kozma jump-started the offense in the third inning when he was hit by Dan Haren's fastball and scored the first run of the game on Kolten Wong's double. Kozma then singled in the fifth, brought home a run on a bunt single and an error in the seventh and then notched an RBI single in the eighth.

While Kozma came into the game batting .093, his season-high three hits bumped his average to .140 (8-for-57).

"I've felt better at the plate than I did tonight," Kozma said. "But today the ball was falling."

Added Matheny, "He's had some hard outs and then you get to the point where you're hitting around .100 and you start pressing a little. I can tell you from experience that it's not fun to be there."

But Kozma certainly had fun on Thursday -- and added a slick baserunning move to his highlight reel.

Kozma's head-first slide to home

With one out and the bases loaded in the seventh, Mark Reynolds sent a fly ball to short right field. Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon caught it with his momentum carrying him away from the plate, which prompted Kozma to try to tag from third. He barely beat Gordon's throw, but did so with an acrobatic headfirst slide for a 4-0 lead.

"As soon as it was put in the air I was going straight back," Kozma said. "I saw [right fielder] Giancarlo Stanton wasn't going to make a play on it and Gordon -- he wasn't camped under it. So as soon as he wasn't camped, I knew I was going."

In turn, it was another play that added to Kozma's main goal of contributing to a victory.

"It's all I try to do anytime I get in," he said.

Steve Wilaj is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.