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Cards' offense excelling so far in pressure situations

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PITTSBURGH -- While much of the early-season attention has been on the Cardinals' pitching staff -- both for its recent scoreless-inning streak and its late-inning bullpen troubles -- the offense has quietly built up some standout numbers with runners in scoring position through 13 games.

Before Tuesday's game, St. Louis was hitting a Major League-best .395 in such spots and even better (.431) with two outs. Four players -- Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday, Allen Craig and Jon Jay -- had individually posted a batting average of .500 or higher with two outs and runners in scoring position. In fact, the only two of the Cardinals' 13 position players not hitting at least .308 with runners in scoring position were David Freese (2-for-7) and Shane Robinson (0-for-3).

The Cardinals will eventually regress more toward the league mean, but this early-season productivity has been an immediate payoff after a Spring Training in which situational hitting and approach with runners in scoring position were points of emphasis by new head hitting coach John Mabry.

"We have a lot of hitters who like being in that position with runners in scoring position, and I think that's where it starts," Craig said. "I feel like we take our best at-bats when guys are out there, and that's a good quality have had."

Last season, the Cardinals batted .264 with runners in scoring position and .238 when doing so with two out.

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.

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