ST. LOUIS -- When the Cardinals signed Kolten Wong to a five-year, $25.5 million extension this spring, they hoped the financial certainty would allow the second baseman to take a more relaxed approach to the game. A month into the season, however, Wong is still finding himself fighting the tendency to stew over the missed opportunities more than he celebrates the success.
It's an issue Wong revisited lately as the lack of any extra-base hits began to wear on him. He finally tallied his first on Monday -- a solo home run in his 60th season at-bat -- and has looked more comfortable at the plate since. A clearer mind, Wong said, has helped.
"Just coming in with a more positive attitude and understanding that things are going to change eventually helped," Wong said. "I have to go out there and put good at-bats together, regardless of if it's going to lead to a walk or a hit. As long as I'm taking the positives out of things, that's what's going to help me change."
Defining success without tying it to results has been freeing for Wong, who has showcased a more disciplined approach since that home run. In Tuesday's game, he worked a 12-pitch at-bat against Aaron Nola, who otherwise dominated the Cardinals. On Wednesday, it was the seven-pitch walk Wong drew to open the ninth that sparked the club's game-winning rally.
"Kolten's at-bats the last few games that he's been in look significantly better," manager Mike Matheny said. "He looks like he's in a good place. We just have to try and keep building on that."
As much as the Cardinals have encouraged Wong to let his buoyant personality override the stress induced by trying so hard to succeed, Wong has found that his wife, Alissa, tends to put things in perspective best. She did so again recently at a time when Wong was seeing his starting opportunities shrink along with his batting average.
"She said, 'Why are you allowing this game to make you so mad?'" Wong said. "When I thought about it more, I did wonder ... I'm blessed to be doing this in the first place. I can't expect myself to be perfect all the time. I can't expect myself to be superman.
"Now, instead of being the guy who goes 4-for-5 and looks at the one at-bat that got out and get [mad] at it, if I go 0-for-3 and I line out once and get a walk, I need to be happy because I put together some good at-bats. I think that's going to be the biggest change for me. Until you learn how to embrace the failure and embrace the struggles, you're never going to understand how to get out of it."
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com 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 Cardinals.com and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.