Shortstop dazzles in field, notches RBI single in win over Brewers
By Nick Krueger
ST. LOUIS -- A foul ball off his right eye kept Cardinals rookie shortstop Aledmys Diaz out of the starting lineup for three days. He could have played on Thursday, but manager Mike Matheny decided to wait one more game.
After a 7-1 victory over the Brewers on Friday night in which Diaz recorded 11 assists in the field and hit an RBI double in the first inning, the wait was worth it.
"It just felt normal," Diaz said. "I think Mike made the right decision to give me one more day because I felt [the eye] was a little swollen, but I felt great today."
Diaz's assists were the most by a Cardinals rookie since Stu Martin had 11 against the New York Giants on June 6, 1936. The Cuba native fielded every out in the third inning and a tough short hop off the bat of Hernan Perez to get the out at first base for Diaz's final act in the ninth.
Perhaps Diaz's most impressive moment came in the seventh when a ball bounced off Jaime Garcia's foot. It ricocheted toward Diaz, who reacted quickly to glove the ball and toss to second baseman Matt Carpenter to start a 1-6-4-3 double play.
"He was great," Garcia said. "He was awesome. We were making fun of him for playing with just one eye, but that was great, that was huge for us."
Diaz also reached on a throwing error in the third inning and beat out a throw by Brewers shortstop Jonathan Villar in the sixth for a single. Diaz finished 2-for-5.
"To have Diaz back, you can see, obviously, offensively, too, right there from the top getting something going," Matheny said. "He seems to really not have missed a beat."
Diaz has also improved in the field from his early season woes. Since committing 10 errors in his first 35 games in the Majors, he has made four in his last 33 starts.
"Diaz as a defender, I'm happy to hear people talking about his defense because it was such a topic of conversation early in the year," Matheny said. "He just continues to improve. You can tell how comfortable he's getting."
Diaz also pushed his candidacy for the 2016 All-Star Game presented by MasterCard closer to a reality through the players' ballot or manager's decision. Though Diaz wasn't on the fan ballot, he entered Friday first in average and second in runs scored among National League shortstops.
Diaz also logged 30 hits and hit .423 in April, the first Cardinals rookie to have that many hits in his first month since Albert Pujols, who went on to win the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2001. Diaz would be the first Cardinals rookie to make the All-Star team since Pujols if selected.
"It would mean a lot," Diaz said. "I've been through a lot of things in the past couple years. It's a big accomplishment for me to be in the conversation for the All-Star Game, but it's just about helping my team right now."
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.