Cards seeing productive Moss early in season

Cards seeing productive Moss early in season

PHOENIX -- The Cardinals took a calculated gamble this past offseason that Brandon Moss would be better than his first impression when they signed the first baseman/outfielder to an $8.25 million contract. That made Moss the seventh-highest-paid player on the club, a distinction he's thus far backed with production.

Moss highlighted a four-hit night on Tuesday with another three-run homer to key the Cardinals' 8-2 win over Arizona. Though he's still in a timeshare at first base, Moss entered the third game of this series Wednesday with an OPS of .931 and tied for the team lead in home runs (five) and RBIs (14).

Moss, who has started 12 of the team's 21 games, entered Wednesday having driven in at least one run in his last four at-bats with a runner in scoring position. In situations this month with a runner in scoring position and two out, Moss entered Wednesday 3-for-4 with three homers, eight RBIs, three walks and an OPS of 3.857.

"I'll take that, because that's a stark contrast to last year, when I really struggled and put a lot of pressure on myself just to hit with runners on base," Moss said. "When you do that, it doesn't work out very well, obviously. This year, I am trying to relax in those at-bats. I'm doing better. I'm seeing the ball better in those at-bats, and I've got a better approach this year."

Moss' production with runners in scoring position last season was so minimal -- two hits in 40 plate appearances -- that the Cardinals stopped playing him regularly in September.

"We just didn't get to see a real hot streak for him last year," manager Mike Matheny said. "[This year, he has had] good at-bats all the way around. He's taking walks, driving the ball. And when he gets it, it goes. That's what we were hoping to see, and still hoping to see a lot of this year."

Concerned that a matchup against lefty starter Patrick Corbin could halt some of the offensive momentum Moss found on Tuesday, Matheny kept Moss out of Wednesday's starting lineup, though he did enter the game in the bottom of the 6th on defense and went 1-for-2 with a run scored in the Cardinals' 11-4 win. 

Worth noting

• Holliday returned to the lineup on Wednesday after missing one game due to tightness in his right quadriceps muscle.

• Second baseman Kolten Wong, who has been battling an illness since Saturday, said he felt much better on Wednesday and would be available off the bench. Wong lost seven pounds while sick.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.