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Unexpected Edman suddenly crucial to Cardinals' success

St. Louis Cardinals' Tommy Edman celebrates as he rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run during the third inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

By DAVID BRANDT AP Sports Writer
PHOENIX (AP) — Tommy Edman was up at the plate on Monday night, barely 24 hours after his St. Louis Cardinals had finished an emotional four-game sweep of the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.
Now, the Cardinals were in Phoenix, still locked in a tight pennant race, and in need of a jolt of energy.
Another unexpected mighty swing from Edman provided it.
The 5-foot-10, 180-pound Edman crushed a solo homer — his sixth of September — deep into the left field seats to get the Cardinals’ offense started in a 9-7 victory.
“He’s been incredible since he got up here,” Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong said. “He has good intent when he gets to the plate. He’s trying to do damage.”
The Cardinals are one of the National League’s top teams for many reasons: Veterans like Yadier Molina and Paul Goldschmidt anchor the lineup. Young starting pitchers including Dakota Hudson and Jack Flaherty have grown into reliable options.
But Edman’s constant production over the past three months has also been incredibly valuable, especially because he was a mostly unknown prospect outside of St. Louis coming into the season.
“It’s been awesome,” Edman said. “Coming into this year, I didn’t really have too much expectation of being to help the big-league team, so it’s great to be up here and contributing.”
Edman is batting .299 with 11 homers and 33 RBIs since being called up in early June. He has stolen 14 bases and provided solid defense at third base, second base and right field.
The 24-year-old is now a mainstay in the lineup as the Cardinals have pushed their way to the top of the NL Central. He was called up from Triple-A after an injury to Jedd Gyroko and was initially a bench player asked to provide infield depth.
That assignment grew into a more regular role after a few more injuries. Now, the Cardinals can barely go a game without having him on the field.
“He’s got really good awareness of what’s going on in the game, he’s prepared well, sees the ball well and then lets his ability play,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said.
Edman was a sixth-round pick by the Cardinals in the 2016 draft out of Stanford. DeJong and others thought he could be a good major league player after watching him in spring training, but just about everyone — including Edman — thought that time would come in 2020 or 2021.
He hit for average throughout the minor leagues, but the big-league power surge is a surprise. He never hit more than seven homers during any year in the minors.
Edman credited Goldschmidt in his progression as a hitter, especially when it comes to studying video. As the Stanford education might suggest, Edman’s always had a cerebral approach to hitting.
If anything, he’s had to make sure he’s not thinking too much.
“I err on the side of having a lot of information in my head,” Edman said. “But I’m getting a little better at not overloading myself, focusing on what’s important and get into crazy specifics. It’s more of a general plan.”
As for Shildt, he has to think less and less about including Edman in the lineup. The answer, at least of late, is almost always yes.
After the Cardinals lost 3-2 in a 19-inning marathon on Tuesday night, Shildt packed his Wednesday afternoon lineup with reserves that didn’t play much the night before.
But there was Edman, right back at the top of the lineup.
He responded with two more hits. He’ll probably need a few more if the Cardinals want to clinch the NL Central since the Brewers are just 1 ½ games back with four days remaining in the regular season.
“He doesn’t make anything bigger than it is,” Shildt said. “He just goes and plays. He’s able to see the game and make his own adjustments really quick.”
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