The importance of Yairo Munoz is often tied into his flexibility, but at this important juncture in the season, it's due to his flexin'.
The stagnant Cardinals' offense needs a jolt, and Yairo has that in his bat. He homered in Monday's game, demolishing a slider that died in the strike zone. That seventh-inning swat drove in two runs to tie the game. The day before, he drove in two runs with a hit, too.
Since he returned June 23 from paternity leave, Munoz is 6 for 13 (.462) without a strikeout.
The Cardinals (41-42) need to take advantage of these next five games against lowly Seattle and San Francisco, both in last place. The timing of Matt Carpenter's injury works out, since Carp was slumping and Munoz is hungry.
“I've been feeling good the whole season, and I've been talking to Jose (Martinez) and Yadi (Molina) about being ready for any opportunity,” Munoz told reporters in Seattle. “The (home run) was a situation where he was throwing a lot of breaking pitches, and I was working with Jose to have a good approach -- and I put the barrel on the ball.”
Crushed it. It went 404 feet, the farthest of the five homers hit in the game.
The Cards should feed off Munoz's fresh energy, as so many other batters are deteriorating as they head toward the All-Star break. And he's shown that he's unafraid of pressurized moments. This season, he's 3 for 7 with two outs and at least one runner in scoring position. A season ago, he fared well in these same situations, hitting .286 with a .444 on-base percentage, tallying 12 RBIs in 35 at-bats (his other 30 RBIs came in the other 258 at-bats).
And this season, in situations categorized as high-leverage by baseball-reference.com, Munoz is hitting .533 (8 for 15). Interestingly, his average is .244 in low-leverage situations (10 for 41).
Since returning from the birth of his third child, Munoz has played left field, center field, shortstop and third base. And pinch-hit twice. His versatility is a weapon, especially since his glove game has improved. Last season, he played everywhere but seemed to make errors everywhere. He tallied 18 in '18, the most on the Cardinals. And he played in only 690 2/3 innings (Carpenter was second on St. Louis with 16 errors. He played 1,263 innings).
But in 2019, Munoz has committed a lone error, and that was back on May 2.
Munoz is far from being the perfect player. But for this stretch, he's the perfect fit for the lethargic Cards.