Adams the latest to come through off the bench

Adams the latest to come through off the bench

ST. LOUIS -- Matt Adams sat on the bench for 6 2/3 innings of Monday night's series opener against the Cubs. Then, after Kolten Wong struck out for the second out of the seventh, Adams approached the plate to pinch-hit for reliever Seung Hwan Oh.

The Cardinals needed a boost after Cubs starter John Lackey retired eight of the previous 10 batters, and Adams delivered it, with a two-run homer to tie the score at 3. Two innings later, Randal Grichuk's walk-off blast won the game for the Cardinals, 4-3.

"I was ready to go," Adams said. "There's no secret to anything up there. I just make sure I'm ready to go when my name is called."

And it has been called a lot. Adams improved to 6-for-12 pinch-hitting this season with the home run, his second this season and sixth of his career off the bench.

Through the first two months of the season, the Cardinals have quickly become the best pinch-hitting team in the Major Leagues with nine pinch-hit home runs, one shy of the team record set in 1998. There are 15 teams without a pinch-hit home run this year. The Nationals are three behind the Cardinals, with six.

"Good hitters cause good pinch-hit at-bats," manager Mike Matheny said. "We spent all winter talking about depth, and the versatility of a bench that we have used quite a bit. I think that's part of it, too, is giving them some pretty regular at-bats. Matt Adams has been getting at-bats pretty regularly, so when you throw him in a game, he feels like his timing is right. I think he's got a better chance that way."

As a team the Cardinals are 27-for-75 with 23 RBIs pinch-hitting this season, nine more RBIs off the bench than all of last year, when they hit .218/.280/.305. On April 8 the Cardinals hit an MLB-record three pinch-hit home runs in a single game against the Braves.

Cards hit three pinch-hit homers

The Cardinals have other teams thinking they have stepping to the plate cold down to a science.

"They must have a special recipe on pinch-hit homers," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "They've had several pinch-hit home runs this year -- it's something they must practice."

Yet it's nothing Adams wasn't willing to share, it's just a matter of consistency.

"It's just sticking with my routine and not getting out of that," Adams said. "The big thing for me is just really developing that routine. Everything comes back to sticking with your routine and tying your confidence into that."

Nick Krueger is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Louis. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.