Kolten Wong is ready to build on his finest season to date.
When the Hawaii alum’s St. Louis Cardinals take on the Atlanta Braves today in the NL Division Series (11 a.m. HST on TBS), the second baseman is expected to bat seventh in the lineup in his return from a recent injury. And if he produces like he did before he went out of the lineup, that’s a huge gain for the NL Central champs.
Wong, in his sixth full season in St. Louis, was not an all-star in 2019 but produced at an all-star level by season’s end thanks to a second-half surge.
“Molten Kolten” had risen to No. 2 in the Cardinals’ batting order when he went down with a hamstring injuy on Sept. 19. He missed the team’s last nine games of a tight division race with the Milwaukee Brewers, won by two games by the Cards (91-71 to Milwaukee’s 89-73).
Wong finished at a team-best .285 — 25 points above his career average — and his on-base percentage of .361 was 29 points higher than his career mark. His batting average matched his career high from 2017, but he only played 108 games that year.
The 28-year-old second baseman played 148 of a possible 162 this time with 11 home runs, 59 RBIs and 61 runs scored. He stole a career-high 24 bases and was caught stealing only four times.
Wong started the season hot, but by late April his production stalled. He batted just .170 in May and his average dipped to .222.
But as things got hotter in the dog days of summer, so did he. He hit .274 in June, .357 in July and .373 in August.
Wong spoke to KHON’s Rob DeMello recently on his approach this season.
Back at full strength and on the heels of a career regular season #Hilo’s @KoltenWong is ready for the playoffs thanks to a conversation with #Cardinals teammate Chris Carpenter #MLBHawaii @HawaiiBaseball #BowsInThePros pic.twitter.com/0Rl321bveC
— Rob DeMello (@RobDeMelloKHON) October 3, 2019
He’s picked up a reputation as one of the best defensive second basemen in the game, and was in the Gold Glove discussion again this year, highlighted by his touch pass to shortstop Paul DeJong for a double play on June 23.
Kolten Wong with the…touch pass?
— Bleacher Report MLB (@BR_MLB) June 24, 2019
Now Wong looks to add to his four career postseason home runs and seven RBIs. The Cardinals made the World Series in his rookie year of 2013, losing in six to the Boston Red Sox. They were knocked out in the NLCS in 2014 and NLDS in 2015. This is their first postseason appearance since.