Jay twice robs Ludwick of extra bases

Jay twice robs Ludwick of extra bases

ST. LOUIS -- Jon Jay continues to insist that he is much the same defensively this year as he was in 2013. Both the eye and the metrics, however, suggest otherwise.

Jay added another two highlight catches to his growing list of defensive gems this season and seemingly saved what finished as a 2-1 win for the Cardinals in their series opener against the Reds on Friday night at Busch Stadium.

In a second inning that was looking like it might get out of control for Cardinals starter John Lackey, Jay tracked Ryan Ludwick's deep fly ball to center and timed his jump perfectly, gloving the ball at the top of the wall. The two runners on base had to quickly retreat.

In Ludwick's next at-bat, Jay plowed backward into the wall to make another highlight-reel catch.

"Really great outfielder," Lackey said of Jay.

"This ballpark plays bigger the colder it gets, so I knew both of those balls I was going to have a chance to make a play on them," Jay said. "Those are two balls where I did drop my head and knew I had time to go after them."

Though he may not have the center-field range of Peter Bourjos, Jay has been an above-average defender again this year. His total of Defensive Runs Saved calculated at four before Friday's showing. In comparison, Jay posted a -10 DRS a year ago. The biggest difference appears to be a quicker first step.

"I think he looks like the guy we've seen almost the entire time we've had him in St. Louis and the guy we saw all the way through the Minor League system," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "I think last year was one of those years where it was hard to put your finger on it. I watched him from the first pitch today and how he was positioning Randal Grichuk … and even with Matt [Holliday], anticipating what might happen. Jon spends a lot of time with [catcher] Yadi [Molina] on what the game plan is for each hitter and really taking control out there. It's hard to put a value on that."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.