Thrust into the starting shortstop role because of a late-August injury to Rafael Furcal, Kozma held his own with little trouble during the final month of the regular season. He was steady defensively and exceeded expectations with the bat. Beginning with Friday's National League Wild Card game in Atlanta, however, Kozma has found himself cast into an unwanted spotlight.
His decision on Friday to bail on a popup he called for led to immense controversy about how the infield fly rule should be applied. In Game 1 of the NL Division Series on Sunday, Kozma's fielding error in the eighth set the Nationals up to score the tying and winning runs.
He's also gone a combined 0-for-6 at the plate.
Manager Mike Matheny pulled Kozma aside after the Cards' 3-2 loss on Sunday to reiterate the faith the organization has in the 24-year-old's ability to handle himself on this stage.
"I just don't want him falling into the trap, thinking he's got to do something different than what he's been doing, because he's been terrific for us," Matheny said. "The more that it's brought to his attention, it becomes more of a distraction, more of a challenge. Hopefully he can fight through that. I know the veteran players are spending time talking to him just about the consistent approach. That's really what our team is all about. Hopefully it'll pay off in the long run."
Without Furcal, the Cardinals don't have a plethora of other options for the position. The only switch Matheny could make would be to move Daniel Descalso to short and insert Skip Schumaker at second base. The organization believes such an arrangement would not be as strong a defensive option.
Asked if he considered making a lineup change for Game 2, Matheny answered: "I like the guys that we've got."