© 2012 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
10/15/12 1:49 AM ET
Descalso, Kozma lurk at bottom of Cards' lineup
Unheralded middle-infield duo has been delivering big hits for St. Louis in postseason
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- They have the big bats in the middle of the lineup, but the little bats at the bottom of the order have also done a marvelous job for the Cardinals the past few games.
Second baseman Daniel Descalso and shortstop Pete Kozma were a combined 3-for-4 in the first four innings Sunday, helping the Cards to a six-run lead on the way to their 6-4 victory over the Giants in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series.
Game 2 is at AT&T Park on Monday at 7 p.m. CT (FOX).
"I like hitting behind [Descalso]," Kozma said. "He kind of sets the table really well."
"We're just going up there trying to have good at-bats," Descalso said. "We're just trying to be tough outs up there, get good pitches to hit and get good swings on the ball. Pete and I have been coming through in some spots for us, and we're just going to try to keep doing that."
"We're just trying to be tough outs up there, get good pitches to hit and get good swings on the ball."
-- Daniel Descalso
Talk about carryover: Sunday night's win came only two days after St. Louis' incredible come-from-behind 9-7 victory at Washington that eliminated the Nationals in Game 5 of the NL Division Series. In that one, the Redbirds' surprising Nos. 7-8 hitters were 5-for-10 with five RBIs and three runs scored.
Descalso went 3-for-5 in Game 5, knocking in three runs and scoring three more. With the Cardinals pecking back from a 6-0 deficit, Descalso homered to open the eighth inning, making it 6-5. And in the ninth against closer Drew Storen, with two outs, the bases loaded and the Nats leading, 7-5, Descalso singled sharply off the glove of shortstop Ian Desmond to tie the score.
Kozma, 2-for-5 in the game, singled to drive home the final two runs that put the Cards ahead and into the NLCS.
What's the secret behind all this postseason production?
"I don't think I'm getting lucky. I don't think I'm a bad player or anything," said Descalso, who grew up 25 miles south of San Francisco in San Carlos. "I'm just going up there and playing the game. I'm taking my at-bats hard and trying to be a tough out. If I hit the ball hard, that's all I can do."
"I feel like we've all been clicking. We've all been hitting the ball very well."
-- Pete Kozma
"I feel like we've all been clicking. We've all been hitting the ball very well," Kozma said. "We feel pretty good right now. Everybody's swinging the bat well. We're doing a good job."
On Sunday, Descalso singled in the second inning and set the table for St. Louis' four-run fourth off Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner that put the game out of reach. With one out, Descalso doubled, and Kozma followed with another double to drive him home. Kozma scored on Jon Jay's single, and Carlos Beltran followed with a two-run homer, his third of the postseason.
Descalso has been the regular second baseman all season, but Kozma inherited the shortstop job when veteran Rafael Furcal injured his elbow at the end of August and was lost for the remainder of the season. Kozma has fit in well in a dangerous lineup that boasts Jay, Beltran, Matt Holliday, Allen Craig, Yadier Molina, David Freese and Descalso batting ahead of him.
The Cardinals won the World Series in seven games over the Rangers last fall with a diverse lineup. Even without Albert Pujols -- who left for the Angels via free agency -- and Lance Berkman -- out most of the season because of a knee injury -- the Cards' lineup is deep and diverse again.
"I think we've had two years in a row now where we've had the best offense in the NL, or close to it, by whatever metric you want to use," said Berkman, who is not on the postseason roster. "I think one of the main reasons we won the World Series last year was we were a better American League team than the Rangers -- when we had the designated hitter in the game, we actually had a better lineup, because we had Craig in there.
"We have a lot of professional hitters. They're tough outs. When you have that many guys like that in the lineup, particularly the way Danny and Pete have been swinging, it's going to make it tough."