Center fielder Colby Rasmus is hitting above .300 for the first six-plus weeks of the season largely because he is handling left-handers better than he did in his first two seasons.
As the Cardinals prepare to meet the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday night in the start of a three-game set, Rasmus is hitting .324 against left-handers and .295 against right-handers.
A good second half last year left Rasmus' average against left-handers at a respectable .270. But in his rookie season of 2009, Rasmus had only 17 hits (only five more than he has now) in 106 at-bats against left-handers for a .160 mark.
"Last year, I felt all right," Rasmus said. "The first year I struggled against them, for sure. But I never had any emphasis put on lefty-lefty and all this stuff. I just went out there and hit them."
Manager Tony La Russa, who has been won over by Rasmus' improvement against left-handers, talked about Rasmus' performance in the 2009 playoffs against two Los Angeles Dodgers left-handers.
"I remember his rookie year, and you just watch him in the playoffs against (Clayton) Kershaw and (Randy) Wolf, and he hangs in there great," La Russa said.
"It's just a matter of getting to know them. There's no reason why he can't be a complete hitter."
Rasmus has hit second, fifth and sixth and had some success in each. He is at No. 2 now.
"I think he can hit in an RBI spot," La Russa said. "I'm not sure everybody's going to play all the time, so he can hit fifth, he can hit fourth.
"Sometimes you look at the guys that are playing and if there isn't a second-place hitter, he hits second."
There will be one first
and a potential first when the Cardinals open a series in
RHPs Mitch Boggs, Eduardo Sanchez and Fernando Salas all have had three saves since RHP Ryan Franklin was
demoted. So far, Sanchez is more the ninth inning pitcher than the others but
manager Tony La Russa went with Salas with the bases loaded on Sunday and he
LHP Trever Miller, who failed to retire any of five hitters he faced in a span of five outings, now has retired five in a row. Miller and pitching coach Dave Duncan recognized that Miller was going to his sidearm slider earlier in the count than he had been when he was pitching well.
Three Cardinals starters, RHPs Kyle McClellan and Kyle Lohse and LHP Jaime Garcia, are a combined 13-2 with three shutouts, two by Garcia and one by Lohse. McClellan, a converted reliever, took a shutout into the ninth inning in his most recent start on Sunday.
BY THE NUMBERS: 44 - Number of double plays grounded into by the Cardinals in their first 35 games.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think there are certain pitchers that it doesn't matter what situation you put them in, they just understand how to get outs. Kyle is one of those guys."
- Injured RHP Adam Wainwright, on his replacement, RHP Kyle McClellan.
INF/OF Allen Craig, (left calf) fouled a ball off his calf on May 6, and missed the May 7 and 8 games Craig told reporters, though, the injury was "nothing serious" and said he could have played May 8 if absolutely necessary.
SS Ryan Theriot (bruised left shin) left the May 6 game shortly after being hit by a pitch. He was back in the lineup May 8 and went 0-for-4.
3B David Freese (broken left hand) went on the 15-day disabled list May 2. He will have surgery May 3, and he is expected to be out until mid- to late July. Freese was scheduled to have a removable cast put on his broken left hand on May 6.
2B Skip Schumaker (strained right triceps) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 16. He hopes to return in May.
LHP Bryan Tallet (fractured right hand) went on 15-day disabled list April 13. He was throwing but not catching in early May, and the timetable for his return was uncertain.
RHP Bryan Augenstein (strained right groin) went on the 15-day disabled list April 13.
RHP Adam Wainwright (Tommy John surgery in February 2011) went on the 60-day disabled list March 25. He will miss the entire 2011 season.
May 10 at CUBS: Chris Carpenter (0-2, 4.19) vs. Carlos Zambrano (4-1, 4.23) 7:05
p.m. CDT (FOX Sports