PITTSBURGH -- Matt Adams, getting his first sustained opportunity to be the Cardinals' everyday first baseman, opened the season with five hits in a three-game series against the Reds. What's a bit surprising, though, is that four of those hits went to left field -- all while the Reds shifted their infield defense expecting Adams to pull the ball.
Hitting against the shift isn't all that new to Adams, who saw more teams defend him with an unconventional infield alignment last season and even in Spring Training. He's talked about countering it with the occasional surprise bunt, but has thus far had success just by taking advantage of where he has been pitched.
"After my first at-bat against [Johnny] Cueto [on Monday], all pitches were away and there was nobody over there at third base," Adams said. "It kind of surprised me a little bit. But maybe their feeling was to throw it out there and try to get me to pull it. I've just got to stick with my approach and hit the ball where it was pitched."
His two hits to left field on Thursday were also on pitches over the outer part of the plate that Adams was able to poke the other way.
"I've never thought of him as a pull-only hitter," Matt Holliday said. "But maybe the numbers show different. He doesn't seem to me like a guy who is a huge shift guy."
Teams aren't shifting him without reason -- Adams did show a tendency to pull the ball last season -- but the success of a shift is often predicated on the pitching that accompanies it. Pitching a left-handed hitter inside is more likely to draw a hit toward the right side of the field.
If Adams can continue to show teams he can hit to all parts of the field, he may end up beating the shift by forcing teams not to use one.
"He has worked on using the whole field," manager Mike Matheny said. "I know that's something I watched him do before he got to the big league level. He has the ability to use the whole field and probably didn't as much last year. I think people are just still learning him."
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.