Experts and fans in St. Louis love to hate Kozma because it seems like he strikes out every at bat. His regular-season batting average is .217, and he was only hit one home run (in the second game of the season) and 35 RBIs. Toward the end of the season when he came up to bat, it looked like it was the last place in the world he wanted to be.
Kozma debuted as the regular shortstop down the stretch of the 2012 season, and he contributed significantly to the Cardinals gaining the second Wild Card berth and winning the NLDS vs. the Washington Nationals. He batted over .300 and had key hits. This season, his offensive numbers have returned to his minor-league levels. Yet, the Cardinals were 67-46 in games he started.
Whenever the big bats in the lineup went cold, and especially after Allen Craig was injured, Kozma was replaced in the starting lineup by Daniel Descalso. He sometimes came into games in the later innings, with Descalso moving to third base. He never let his offensive woes or the loss of his starting job affect his play on the field.
Such was the case yesterday in Game 4, when Kozma came into the game in the bottom of the sixth inning. In the bottom of the seventh, with the Cardinals up 4-2, Nick Punto began a possible one-out Dodgers rally by doubling. Kozma saw him leading off a little too far and initiated a pickoff play with relief pitcher Carlos Martinez — rally snuffed out in a flash.
This afternoon, when the Cardinals were trying to rally for the win, Kozma kept it alive with an RBI single. He’s a heads-up player on the field and on the bases. He helps his team win. Most Cardinals fans want a different shortstop, but they should appreciate the one they have. Their team is one game away from the World Series. 26 other teams, most of them with “better” shortstops, are sitting at home watching.
Sara Lefebvre is a St Louis Cardinals writer for RantSports.com. Connect with her on Google.