Jason Heyward was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals this past offseason in exchange for Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins. Heyward, an impending free agent, was supposed to shore up the hole in right field and provide a versatile weapon in the box. Instead Heyward struggled to hit his stride in St. Louis, slashing a meager .217/.261/.349 in April, while Shelby Miller was doing a solid job for Atlanta. Cardinals management and fans were not worried, however, as many attributed Heyward’s struggles to the change of scenery and just him trying to get comfortable. The Cardinals were winning anyway, as the offense was rolling thanks to hot starts by Matt Holliday, Matt Carpenter, Kolten Wong, and Jhonny Peralta. May rolled around and Miller was asserting himself as a Cy Young candidate, going 2-1 with a 0.95 ERA and nearly completing a no-hitter against the Marlins on May 17th.
Meanwhile, Heyward continued to struggle. The right fielder did slash .284/.340/.443 in the month, but his season line of .251/.303/.398 left a lot to be desired, and with first baseman Matt Adams going down for an extended period of time Heyward had failed to deliver on the hopes that he could step up and fill the hole in the middle of the lineup, but in reality he was stuck in the eighth spot and struggling to produce, which led to three games on the bench and one coming off it. Despite their offseason acquisition’s struggles the Cardinals headed into June with a comfortable lead in the NL Central and the best record in baseball.
June came and Jason Heyward continued to struggle through the first week, which lead to another two games on the pine. Then on June 8th Matt Holliday was hurt playing a fly ball in left field. He would leave the game. The injury would later come out as a grade 2 quad strain and Holliday would hit the disabled list. With Holliday’s impending DL stint, the Cardinals and their fans were worried, as their best offensive weapon would clearly be out longer than the minimum 15 days. That same game on June 8th, Heyward went 2-4, which now appears to be the turning point for the month, if not the season, as Heyward has been on a tear since the Holliday injury, and is now hitting out of the middle of the lineup.
Since Holliday was injured on June 8th, Heyward has gone 18-43 (.418) and hit two homers to bring his total to seven for the year. Heyward really showed he is rolling in the last series against the Phillies, in which he went a combined 8-14 (.571) with two doubles, a homer, three RBI, and a swiped bag. Heyward’s hot month (.355/.369/.516) has been good enough to raise his slash line to a respectable .279/.320/.429, not as good as Cardinal fans were expecting since April, but much better. The Cardinals had been hit hard by the injury bug, and the offense took a big hit with Holliday and Adams both going down for extended periods of time. Jason Heyward has stepped up for the Cardinals right when they needed him most, and what better than a series against Philadelphia to boost your confidence even more? With Holliday most likely being out until sometime near the All-Star Game in Cincinnati, the Cardinals surely are hoping that Heyward can sustain his recent success until and even after Holliday’s return to the lineup.
Having a confident Heyward teamed up with Holliday and Matt Carpenter atop the lineup, the Cardinals offense would really be a powerhouse going down the stretch and into the postseason. Heyward’s recent successes, paired with Lance Lynn‘s return this week, ALONG with Adam Wainwright‘s statement that he thinks he could return this season, should give Cardinal fans a lot to be excited about as we approach the the All-Star game and the second half of the season.