PHOENIX -- A weekend series in which he became the first Cardinals rookie since Wally Moon (1954) to post a five-hit game and the first since Bake McBride (1974) to tally eight hits over a two-game stretch earned shortstop Aledmys Diaz a stay in the Cardinals' lineup.
It did not, however, earn him a higher spot in the order.
All 12 of Diaz's Major League starts, including his latest in Monday's 12-7 loss against the D-backs, have come as an eight-hole hitter. It was a natural fit when the Cardinals cautiously plugged him into the lineup earlier this month due to position necessity. But is now a more debatable one considering his continued production.
Diaz, who was added to the roster because of an Opening Day injury to Tommy Pham, entered the four-game series in Arizona with more extra-base hits (12) than anyone else on the club and boasted a slash line of .480/.509/.860. Among all National League players, he ranked fifth with eight doubles and sixth with 43 total bases.
Even still, manager Mike Matheny remains content to bat Diaz eighth. He elaborated why before the series opener, in which Diaz went 2-for-4.
"I just haven't seen an urgency to put him somewhere else," Matheny said. "He's a young player, and when you have a young player in a spot where it's working, let's not complicate matters. You look up there and see, what, .480? So does that mean you want to throw him in the three-hole? That could be the way someone would like to think. The at-bats he's taking are great, but I would rather continue to see him doing what he's doing in whatever we spot we put him in instead of trying to overthink this and force something. He's doing a nice job."
The Cardinals have the luxury, too, of letting Diaz continue to season himself as an eight-hole hitter because their offense is clicking. A club that averaged fewer than four runs a game in 2015 entered Monday leading the NL in slugging percentage (.493) and OPS (.849). The Cards averaged more than six runs a game through their first 18 and were averaging nine runs in their 10 wins.
In other words, it's not as if the team is lacking a spark in another part of the order. If circumstances change, Matheny indicated he would be willing to consider a shift in philosophy.
"The more you get to watch him against some very good pitching, the more well-rounded hitter I see," Matheny said. "When we had him in the tryout and originally signed him, you saw power, but it was just yank, yank, yank. Now we're watching him shoot it to right field. We're watching some effortless swings where the ball is carrying.