Gyorko proving invaluable to Cardinals

Gyorko proving invaluable to Cardinals

HOUSTON -- Amid the unrelenting injuries the Cardinals have sustained over the last six weeks has emerged an irreplaceable bat and a stabilizing presence in the infield.

Once a player without a position, Jedd Gyorko has not only wiggled his way into everyday opportunities, he has left the Cardinals wondering where they would be without him. His three-run blast on Tuesday -- which propelled the Cardinals to an 8-5 victory over the Astros -- was just the latest in a growing list of key contributions by the utility infielder.

As manager Mike Matheny said after his team's third straight win: "When he gets going, he's amazing."

Gyorko has been just that since the All-Star break, clubbing 11 home runs, including three in the team's last four games. He's jumped up to third place on the team with 18 home runs this season and has done so with fewer at-bats. His rate of 14.11 at-bats per home run is not only second on the club, it's fifth among all National League hitters with at least 250 at-bats.

Over the first three seasons of his career, that ratio was almost double what it's been in 2016.

"I feel good with where I'm at right now," Gyorko said. "When I get a good pitch to hit, I feel like I'm not missing it very often right now. You hope the good stretches last longer than the bad ones. You just ride it out."

Gyorko's impact, however, hasn't only been a product of his ability to change the game with a single swing. His versatility has been crucial, and his clean bill of health necessary for a team that has endured so many injuries. Of all the infielders the Cardinals have used this season, Gyorko is the only one who has been on the active roster without interruption since Opening Day.

He's used that availability to turn what was an undefined role in the first half into a permanent place in the lineup. He's made starts at every infield position and has filled seven spots in the lineup. His eight Defensive Runs Saved ranks first on a club that has had its share of defensive vulnerabilities.

"I understood a little bit of what the situation was going to be when I came in," he said. "You can never predict or know when injuries are going to happen. I just got myself prepared to play every single day. And when the time came, I just tried to take advantage of it."

Through the team's first 119 games, of which Gyorko has started just 63, he ranks fourth among Cardinals position players with a 2.1 Wins Above Replacement.

"You just don't know when he's going to hit you," Matheny said. "When he gets into a good rhythm, he's going to sneak up there and do some damage. I just like the way he goes about his business."

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