Hits keep coming

Edmonds’ consistency sparks Cardinals’ run
Tuesday, September 7, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:09 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

ST. LOUIS — Homestands like the one Jim Edmonds just blitzed through, batting .455 with four home runs, five doubles and 13 RBIs in six games, are not all that uncommon for him.

What is unique about this season, though, is that the St. Louis Cardinals’ center fielder has been putting up those types of numbers for half of the season. Edmonds has long been known for building a season through a progression of highs and lows, but now he is sustaining the production.

“It’s the most consistent I’ve ever seen Jim,” manager Tony La Russa said. “He’s a great talent but the level of his play, day in and day out, has been outstanding for a long, long time.”

Edmonds’ 300th home run on Saturday night off Dodgers left-hander Kazuhisa Ishii was his ninth long ball in 10 games. He tied his career best with three doubles on Sunday.

“Just a streaky hitter, isn’t that what you guys always say about me?” Edmonds said. “I’ll just enjoy it while it lasts.”

Edmonds’ newfound consistency has perhaps been the most impressive thing about perhaps his best season, which features a .313 average, 40 home runs and 104 RBIs. For 47 games in a row and in 56 of the past 57 games, he has reached base safely by hit or walk.

“I know it’s a good stretch, but it’s weird,” Edmonds said. “When you play this game you never know what you’re going to get.

“It’s amazing, you’ll go 0-for-3 with a walk and maybe two days in a row go 0-for-2 with another few walks. So it’s kind of a weird stat.”

He is being modest. On May 26, the Cardinals were 23-22 and he was batting .273 with 11 home runs and 31 RBIs, a blah year on a blah team, and wondering whether his surgically repaired shoulder was the cause. He didn’t get many at-bats in spring training following the operation.

“I was ready to retire in June, to tell you the truth,” Edmonds said. “I didn’t feel too good and hitting .260 is tough.”

That soon changed. The Cardinals were 69-22 since May 27, heading into Monday night’s game at San Diego and Edmonds has been one of the driving forces with a .337 average, 29 home runs and 73 RBIs.

Since July 26, he’s been even better with a .400 average.

“He’s had some great spurts, you know,” La Russa said. “But for prolonged, just cranking out tough at-bat after at-bat, this has been outstanding.

“The production is there, and for the days he doesn’t feel good he finds a way to get something.”

Edmonds is playing so well he has squeezed his way into the MVP picture as the Cardinals’ third worthy candidate. Scott Rolen was batting .320 with an NL-leading 117 RBIs and carried the team early. After a slow start Albert Pujols helped the Cardinals take control in the NL Central, and he was batting .332 with 43 home runs, tying his career best set last year, and 106 RBIs.

Edmonds has been the hottest Cardinal lately, enabling them to move ahead by an astounding 171/2 games, the biggest lead for the franchise in 60 years. He has reached 100 RBIs for the third time in five seasons in St. Louis, and his home run total is two off his career best set in 2000.

With 79 extra-base hits he was only four behind Pujols for the major league lead.

Hitting 300 home runs was a big milestone for him. He has developed into one of the top longball threats in the major leagues after never hitting more than nine home runs in five minor league seasons.

“For me, it’s something I can say one day when I’m old that something like that happened,” Edmonds said. “Only because the people who know me closest back home know I probably should have never gotten here.

“It’s been a lot of hard work and it’s something I’ve developed into, and I’m happy to be able to play long enough to have something like that.”

Edmonds is feeling good physically, too, benefiting from installing a weight room in his home.

“I’m learning each year how to survive the season and how to push it and when not to push it,” Edmonds said. “It seems the more I do, the better I feel each day.”

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