4/16/2013 11:51 P.M. ET
Cards' offense excelling so far in pressure situations
By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com
PITTSBURGH -- While much of the early-season attention has been on the Cardinals' pitching staff -- both for its recent scoreless-inning streak and its late-inning bullpen troubles -- the offense has quietly built up some standout numbers with runners in scoring position through 13 games.
Before Tuesday's game, St. Louis was hitting a Major League-best .395 in such spots and even better (.431) with two outs. Four players -- Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday, Allen Craig and Jon Jay -- had individually posted a batting average of .500 or higher with two outs and runners in scoring position. In fact, the only two of the Cardinals' 13 position players not hitting at least .308 with runners in scoring position were David Freese (2-for-7) and Shane Robinson (0-for-3).
The Cardinals will eventually regress more toward the league mean, but this early-season productivity has been an immediate payoff after a Spring Training in which situational hitting and approach with runners in scoring position were points of emphasis by new head hitting coach John Mabry.
"We have a lot of hitters who like being in that position with runners in scoring position, and I think that's where it starts," Craig said. "I feel like we take our best at-bats when guys are out there, and that's a good quality have had."
Last season, the Cardinals batted .264 with runners in scoring position and .238 when doing so with two out.
Robinson gets first 2013 start, then rain erases it
PITTSBURGH -- After biding his time on the bench, waiting for an opposing club to start a left-handed pitcher against the Cardinals, Shane Robinson finally saw his name on the lineup card upon arriving at the ballpark Tuesday.
Having entered eager to make his first start of the season, Robinson left PNC Park later that night technically still waiting. Though he did start the game, the decision to postpone the contest because of rain means Robinson's start will not go in the books. Also off the stat sheet are the walk he drew in the first inning and the fielding error he committed in center.
Matheny had hoped to get Robinson, who hit .438 in Grapefruit League play, into a starting lineup sooner, but pitching matchups had not worked in Robinson's favor. Pittsburgh's Jonathan Sanchez was just the second left-hander to start against the Cardinals this season. The first, Barry Zito, pitched the day after a team off-day, which left Matheny hesitant to sit starting center fielder Jon Jay.
"It's hard taking the everyday guys out when they're playing as well as they are, but Shane, especially with the spring he had, deserves to get in there as much as we can get him," Matheny said before Tuesday's game. "We just keep challenging Shane and the other guys, too, to really figure out what you have to do to be sharp when that opportunity comes."
He had made it a point, though, to stay in constant communication with Robinson, letting him know that Tuesday would be the day that Robinson would get a chance to be more involved. That communication, Robinson said, has been key in helping him adapt back into a part-time playing role after getting regular at-bats during Spring Training.
"I'm at least more comfortable with understanding how things are working out and how they need to use me, why they want to use me in certain spots instead of others," Robinson said. "I'm on the same page with Mike. Nothing has been out of the ordinary. It's a lot easier that way when you know exactly what your manager is thinking and what he wants to do."
With right-hander A.J. Burnett pitching Wednesday, Jon Jay will most likely be back in center and batting leadoff for the series finale. The Cardinals do, though, face another lefty Thursday in Philadelphia's Cole Hamels, so perhaps Robinson will have to wait only a little longer for his first official start of 2013.
No. 3 prospect Martinez to start Minor League season
PITTSBURGH -- Carlos Martinez, who reported to Spring Training six weeks late because of visa issues, progressed quickly enough in extended spring training to be ready to make his season debut Thursday. Martinez joined the Double-A Springfield team Monday in advance of that start, which will come at Arkansas.
John Vuch, the Cardinals' director of Minor League operations, said that when Martinez was finally cleared to report to Jupiter, Fla., for Spring Training that the organization was pleased to see that he was further along in his throwing program than expected. Martinez, who opened the year ranked by MLB.com as the organization's third-best prospect, had been working through that program while in a holding pattern in the Dominican Republic.
While the visa delays kept Martinez from participating in his first Major League camp, it turns out that he will only miss two weeks of the Minor League season. Martinez closed his 2012 season with Springfield, where he went 4-3 with a 2.90 ERA in 15 games (14 starts).
• Asked if Pennsylvania native Matt Adams might be in line to make the start in Wednesday's series finale, manager Mike Matheny said that was "yet to be determined." Adams walked in a pinch-hit plate appearance Monday after hitting a homer in three straight games.
• Shelby Miller will make his fourth career start Wednesday, but he has already made some history through his first three. Miller is the only player since at least 1916 to have two games of at least six shutout innings and no more than one hit allowed in his first 10 career appearances. Miller allowed one hit in his only start last season (six innings) and also in his most recent one (seven innings), which came Friday.
• Top Cardinals prospect Oscar Taveras had his five-game hitting streak ended Monday with an 0-for-4 game against Triple-A Oklahoma City. In his first seven games with Memphis, Taveras is 8-for-26.
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.