Wong's days off bear fruit with pair of hits

Wong's days off bear fruit with pair of hits

PHOENIX -- Rejuvenated and refocused after a pair of off-days, Kolten Wong returned to the Cardinals' starting lineup on Tuesday zeroed in on achieving proper process regardless the result. He came away from the Cards' 9-1 win over the D-backs having enjoyed the bonus of both.

Stuck in his first substantial skid of the season, Wong showed signs of breaking out with his second multi-hit game of the month. He continued the offense's first-inning assault on starter Robbie Ray by contributing an RBI single. Wong later doubled in a fifth-inning at-bat.

"I came into today not caring if I got a hit or not," said Wong, who entered the game with just two hits in his previous 29 at-bats. "It was more about putting good at-bats together, barreling up balls. I accomplished that with the hits, so it was a good day today."

Wong found himself benched after Friday's series opener in San Diego. He was unexpectedly thrust into Saturday's contest due to Matt Carpenter's mid-game ejection, but manager Mike Matheny followed that by giving Wong days off on Sunday and Monday. He even stayed away from using Wong as a pinch-hitter.

The purpose was to have the starting second baseman completely unplug, and Wong did so differently on each day.

"[On Sunday], I didn't do anything. I just relaxed," Wong said. "I wanted to enjoy a game and not worry about anything. I took my mind off baseball and saw if I could be a fan. I think just through clearing my head and understanding that I don't need to do everything [perfectly], I was able to look back and realize this is a game that I need to just enjoy."

He took that clear mind into the batting cage on Monday to then focus on some tweaks to a swing that he noticed had been getting too long.

"I'm trying to be more direct to the ball," Wong explained. "I did some things with my swing to try and shorten it up, make it a little crisper."

That short swing helped him poke that first-inning single, which snapped an 0-for-8 stretch. Wong looked steady in the field, too, nearly making a pair of spectacular plays. His defense had taken a recent slump along with the offense, as Wong had committed three errors in his previous seven starts.

"A little confidence, that's what everybody out here needs," Matheny said. "All the way around he looked like a couple days' rest did him well."

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.