ST. LOUIS -- Matt Adams entered Thursday second on the Cardinals with a .307 batting average yet still lacking production in two key areas. He's struggling against lefties, and perhaps most concerning for a player who has batted cleanup in 27 of the team's 41 games, he's not driving in runs.
The latter is tied to Adams' decrease in power, something that he has sacrificed with his willingness to hit outside pitches to the opposite field. Clubs have been aggressive in pitching him that way, seemingly willing to take a single to left over the threat of Adams pulling a ball for an extra-base hit.
Adams has exploited the shift in this way, but he's also tallied just two home runs in 150 at-bats. He had 17 as a part-time player in 296 at-bats a year ago. Needing Adams to provide middle-of-the-order production, the Cardinals have encouraged him to lay off some of those outside pitches -- even if the pitch is a strike -- to wait for another pitch that he can hit with more authority.
"Early in the count, [I need to] try to get more of a pitch that I can drive in the gaps and do damage with," said Adams, who has 11 RBIs in 39 games. "I think it's just my being maybe too aggressive early in the count, instead of letting it come to me and getting a pitch that I know I can drive."
With outfielder Oscar Taveras seemingly knocking on the big league door, the Cardinals will need to see more run-producing hits from Adams in order to justify his stay as an everyday hitter. They'd also like improved results against lefties, who have limited Adams to five hits (two for extra bases) in 34 at-bats this season. He has stuck out in 10 of those at-bats.
Adams said a recent tweak with his stance setup helped him feel more comfortable against lefty Travis Wood on Monday. Nevertheless, he admitted that the production so far is "not as good as what I'd like to do."
"I felt comfortable in spring, and a couple nights ago against Wood I felt real comfortable," Adams said. "I made a few adjustments, and I think that's going to help me big time. Now I've lowered my front shoulder a little bit and am seeing the ball middle-away better from the lefty."
Wong returns to Majors with improved swing
ST. LOUIS -- Feeling improved after dealing with a day-long stomach illness that struck him immediately upon returning to St. Louis, Kolten Wong returned to Busch Stadium on Thursday eager to show that the work he did to right his swing in Triple-A will translate into continued success in the Majors.
Wong, however, will have to wait one more day before getting back onto the field.
Citing a desire to give Wong until Friday to get healthy, manager Mike Matheny chose to start Mark Ellis in Thursday's series finale against the Cubs. Wong was expected to be available as a pinch-hitter, if needed.
"You're always worried about dehydration," Matheny said. "I think we've all been there. Trying to get your legs back under yourself the next day isn't necessarily the best way to jump back into what we're doing here. Hopefully give him a day to get himself feeling strong again. Hopefully we'll have him back out there soon."
Though Wong only spent two weeks away from the big league club, he described his work with Triple-A hitting coach Mark Budaska as fruitful. Wong dedicated time to watching video, from which he determined that a much-exaggerated leg kick was one of the reasons why he was fouling so many balls back and swinging at pitches he normally would have laid off.
He worked to reduce that leg kick and went on to hit .344/.382/.484 with 14 runs scored, 10 RBIs and five stolen bases in 15 games.
"Now that [the leg kick] is shorter and my base is wider, it's so much easier to see the ball, because there are not so many things moving," Wong said. "It's real small, real compact, where it needs to be."
It helped, too, that Wong was able to play daily. At the time of this demotion, he was not getting those needed repetitions with the Cardinals.
"It got me right back into where I need to be," Wong said. "I'm the kind of player that I need to play as much as possible. I love being in every game. When I got the amount of repetitions that I got down there, it just makes me always on time with everything I'm doing."
Wong said he focused also on his defense, particularly aiming to improve his reads on balls hit to his right side. He also began to journal, using the writing exercise as a way to keep track of his progress, thought process and adjustments. It was a suggestion first offered by Matheny back in Spring Training.
Wong's ability to make the necessary adjustments as quickly as he did earned him a short Triple-A stay and another chance to prove himself a capable everyday Major League second baseman.
"I looked at it as, 'This is a chance for me to get better, get my defense where it needs to be and my offense especially where it needs to be,'" Wong said. "That was the big thing -- I wanted to go in there and not be down about being sent down, but to try and see how fast I can get back up. The first couple days I was still a little down in the fact that I got sent down, but I knew I was there for a reason. I knew I didn't want to be there. I wanted to make sure I put my best foot forward so I could get back up here."
Yadi voices displeasure over pitches near head
ST. LOUIS -- Catcher Yadier Molina kept it no secret that he took exception to seeing several pitches thrown up and in at him on Thursday, and it led to both the Cubs and Cardinals having their benches warned in the eighth inning of the Redbirds' 5-3 win.
Molina, having already had to get out of the way of two high-and-inside pitches earlier in the afternoon, was brushed back in the eighth inning on another by reliever Neil Ramirez. He turned to the Cubs' dugout and appeared to exchange words with Chicago manager Rick Renteria. As Molina barked, he also demonstratively gestured at his head.
That led home-plate umpire Will Little to warn both dugouts.
"You get one mistake that sails and flies up by your head, you're not happy about it," manager Mike Matheny said. "But when you see a number of them happen that way, you start to take it pretty personal, and I don't blame him. We're not trying to pitch anybody up and in like that, and then you start talking about around the head. Nobody else should, either. Guys need to stand up for themselves and we need to stand up for them."
Matheny said he did not think the inside pitches to Molina were related to any leftover animosity from Monday's game, during which Cardinals reliever Eric Fornataro hit Cubs pitcher Travis Wood after Wood had already hit two batters in the game.
Molina was unavailable for comment after Thursday's game.
"Whether they were trying to go in on him or not, it's just one of those things where you [the Cubs] have to make an adjustment," Matt Carpenter said. "If it happened to anybody, we would have been mad about it, not just Yadi. You try to go in and the ball runs up by someone's face once, you're upset. But three times?"
• Left-hander Jaime Garcia threw a bullpen session on Thursday, and he remains scheduled to come off the disabled list and start for St. Louis on Sunday. With Wednesday's rainout, the Cardinals have pushed everyone in their rotation back. That will give Garcia an extra day and Adam Wainwright two extra days' rest because of Monday's scheduled off-day.
• Cardinals principal owner Bill DeWitt Jr. has been named chairman of a seven-member committee charged with overseeing the selection of Bud Selig's successor as Major League Baseball Commissioner. Selig has already announced that he will retire at the end of his term on January 24, 2015.
Joining DeWitt on this committee will be owners Dick Monfort (Rockies), David Montgomery (Phillies), Arte Moreno (Angels), Bob Nutting (Pirates), Jim Pohlad (Twins) and Jerry Reinsdorf (White Sox).
• The Cardinals announced game times of 1:15 p.m. CT and 7:15 p.m. for the Aug. 30 split-doubleheader between the Cubs and Cardinals.
• Left-hander Marco Gonzales, the team's top pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, has been promoted to Double-A Springfield after going 2-2 with a 1.43 ERA in six starts for Class A Advanced Palm Beach. In those 37 2/3 innings, Gonzales allowed eight runs (six earned) on 34 hits and eight walks. He struck out 32.
• The Cardinals announced that they have made 400 more tickets available for the Pooches in the Ballpark event on June 14. The owner and dog will be required to purchase separate tickets ($40 each) and will be able to participate in a pregame parade around the field. Tickets can be purchased at cardinals.com/pooches.
• The Braves have announced that they will start the following pitchers in their upcoming visit to Busch Stadium: Ervin Santana (4-0, 1.99 ERA) on Friday, Aaron Harang (4-3, 2.98 ERA) on Saturday and Gavin Floyd (0-1, 2.70 ERA) on Sunday.
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.