ATLANTA -- Well aware that he didn't possess the swiftest personnel around, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny nevertheless opened Spring Training by challenging his players to push their limits. Hustle then, he hoped, would translate into a more aggressive mindset now.
The Cardinals showed the power of that push on Saturday night, utilizing some aggressive baserunning and newfound speed en route to a 12-2 victory over the Braves.
Unexpected early-season contributors Jeremy Hazelbaker and Aledmys Diaz added some fleeter feet into the mix with their inclusion in the lineup. Diaz showed it with an RBI triple, while Hazelbaker swiped the Cardinals' first base of the season and made a key 90-foot advancement in the Cardinals' two-run fourth.
With the Cardinals ahead, 3-2, Hazelbaker challenged Braves left fielder Kelly Johnson and reached third safely on a sacrifice fly that scored Matt Carpenter. That extra base proved pivotal when Stephen Piscotty followed by legging out a two-out infield single.
It was one of three infield singles the Cardinals had on the night. Each led directly to a run.
"That's the kind of team we should be," Matheny said. "You're talking about some young, exciting hitters. They should be able to make something happen and put the pressure on the defense all the time. A Hazelbaker and a Diaz and a [Kolten] Wong, a Stephen Piscotty, all of them should be thinking that they want to make something happen. And the more [pressure] put on [the defense], the more they're going to have to make plays, the way these guys run."
The Braves had their issues, too, tallying three errors in addition to a pair of wild pitches and a passed ball.
Even the first of the Cardinals' dozen runs was generated by a gamble, as Wong snuck as far as he could down the third-base line with one out and starter Carlos Martinez at the plate in the second. As soon as Martinez put a ball in play, Wong dashed for home. A headfirst slide helped him beat the throw from second baseman Jace Peterson.
"I was trying to see how much I could get off [the base] and then take as good of a jump as I could get," Wong said. "We have some young guys stepping in and doing some big things for us, and kicking our butt to get us going."