Rare 2-out RBIs the difference-maker vs. Reds

St. Louis, historically strong in those spots, ranks 27th in Majors in '15

Rare 2-out RBIs the difference-maker vs. Reds

CINCINNATI -- The Cardinals scored all of their runs in Thursday's 3-0 win over the Reds with two outs, first on a run-scoring single by Tony Cruz and then with Kolten Wong's two-RBI hit. And perhaps it's surprising how notable a feat that was.

While the club has been starved for runs, in general, much of the season, the Cardinals have had a particularly hard time striking with two outs. Despite ranking near the middle of the pack with 3.95 runs scored per game, the Cardinals sit 27th in the Majors (13th in the National League) with 127 two-out RBIs. That accounts for a lower percentage (31) of the team's RBI total than it has in any of manager Mike Matheny's three previous seasons as manager.

"That does surprise me," Matheny said when presented with those figures.

Perhaps it has gone somewhat unnoticed because of the Cardinals' stalwart pitching, which has masked all sorts of offensive issues experienced by a team that nevertheless sits 30 games above .500 at the two-thirds mark of the season.

But the drop in two-out production is significant. The Cardinals are coming off seasons in which they were among the best in those spots. In 2013, the Cardinals ranked first in the NL with 287 two-out RBIs, which represented 37 percent of their total. That figure is hardly surprising, as it came in a year when the club set a record for team average with runners in scoring position (.330).

Cruz's RBI single

However, last season, one in which the Cardinals actually averaged fewer runs per game (3.82) than they are now, they were still the league's third-best team in terms of two-out production. Their 246 two-out RBIs accounted for 42 percent of the team's overall total. At their current pace, the Cardinals are on track to drive in just 191 runs with two outs this season.

Thursday's production did something to lift that season average.

Cruz struck first, snapping an 0-for-14 skid with an RBI single off Reds starter Michael Lorenzen. Though he plays sparingly behind Yadier Molina, Cruz has now delivered a game-winning RBI in two of his 12 season starts.

"Any time you can help offensively, it's huge," Cruz said. "[Lorenzen] has a good fastball that kind of jumps on you. Luckily, I stayed through it and was able to get a hit."

Wong padded the lead by ensuring the Cardinals didn't waste a leadoff double by Matt Carpenter in the fifth. With his two-run single, Wong jumped to the top of the Cardinals' leaderboard with 21 two-out RBIs this year.

"[Lorenzen] missed a couple of times with some mistakes and then he got into a situation where Wong was able to get a first-pitch fastball and hit it up the middle," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "That was really, in my opinion, the difference maker."

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.