Grichuk freed up as part of everyday lineup

Grichuk freed up as part of everyday lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Stephen Piscotty sensed the turning point arriving in Houston, when he watched teammate Randal Grichuk declutter. All that noise that had been in Grichuk's head -- doubt about whether he belonged, frustration around broken mechanics, and anxiousness about whether his results one day would be enough to earn him a start on the next one -- had faded.

The momentum Grichuk built on that road trip has only gathered upon returning to St. Louis. He contributed another two extra-base hits -- including his second home run of the series -- on Wednesday to help propel the Cardinals to an 8-1 victory over the Mets.

Grichuk has played in 11 games since returning from a second stint with Triple-A Memphis and has tallied 12 extra-base hits during that stretch. That includes five home runs, pushing his season total to 17.

"There are a lot of lessons he's had to learn this year, and a lot of them you have to learn the hard way," manager Mike Matheny said. "He needed -- and he's not going to like me saying this -- but he needed a couple trips to Memphis. That's just part of the learning curve. That's never fun, and I know he's hoping that never happens again, but he learned things about himself that he probably wouldn't have been able to here."

A Matt Adams injury created the opportunity for Grichuk to return to the Majors on Aug. 11, and an injury to Matt Holliday later that day paved the way for the everyday playing time that Grichuk had lost earlier this year. Two days after learning Holliday would be sidelined with a fractured thumb, Matheny sought out Grichuk.

He encouraged the 25-year-old outfielder to be true to himself, even if that meant accepting the swing-and-misses along with his power. It was a tradeoff, Matheny said, that the Cardinals could tolerate. Matheny also reiterated his commitment to giving Grichuk regular playing time again.

And with that, Grichuk has since run free.

"Obviously you go out there to perform, but knowing you're going to be in there is a huge plus," Grichuk said. "If you're 0-for-3, you don't have to get a hit to play the next day. It's definitely freed me up and allowed me to go out there and have fun."

Absent the mental shackles that had been restraining him, Grichuk also worked into a good place with his mechanics. It was this development that Piscotty observed in Houston.

"The way the ball was coming off his bat -- it's always impressive, but there was just something a little bit different," Piscotty said. "I could tell he got to where he wanted to be mechanically, and I think when that happens, you can get more into the approach and playing chess with the pitcher.

"What he's done the last couple of games is classic Randal Grichuk. And that's really going to carry us down the stretch."

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.