Third baseman Daniel Descalso, who won games on Monday and Tuesday with late-inning tie-breaking singles, is one of several young players who have helped keep the Cardinals at the top of the National League Central Division standings.
Descalso, 24, is batting a modest .242 overall but he hits late. After the sixth inning, Descalso has knocked in nine runs either to tie a game or put the Cardinals ahead, and is averaging .360 in those situations. He leads the team with five game-winning runs batted in.
Craig, who never had started a game at second base, has handled the position well and delivered key hits. Descalso, Jay and Craig all have less than one year of experience in the majors.
And the influence of the young farm system players isn't confined to the offense.
General manager John Mozeliak said: "We've had a lot of confidence in what we've been doing all along, in the draft, and in player development. And now we're seeing it come to fruition."
NOTES AND QUOTES
LF Matt Holliday and the
Cardinals hope Thursday's off-day in
INF Nick Punto, who has a strained right forearm flexor tendon, is able to come off the disabled list next weekend. But that is unlikely as Punto has not even begun throwing yet.
The Cardinals are 28-12 when RHP Chris Carpenter, their acknowledged ace, does not start a game. They are 2-9 in the games he does start. "I've been on the other side of this," Carpenter said. "Now I guess it's my turn."
OF Jon Jay has hit .368 as a starter in 18 games. And he's played well defensively at all three outfield positions, starting at least one game in each in the last week.
The Cardinals will wrap up their road schedule against National League Western Division teams before Memorial Day. Their three-game series at Colorado this weekend will mark the final time the Cardinals will play a game this season outside the Central and Eastern time zones.
BY THE NUMBERS: 2.5 - Average number of runs the Cardinals have scored when LF Matt Holliday hasn't played (10 games) because of his appendectomy or left leg injury.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're not going to push it. There's a lot of season left."
- Manager Tony La Russa, on injured LF Matt Holliday, who has a strained left quadriceps.
LF Matt Holliday (tight left quadriceps) left the May 22 game and did not play May 23 or 24. He is expected to sit out the May 25 game as well and, after an off day for the team, possibly return May 27. Holliday did not run sprints to test the injury on May 25 and remained questionable for May 27.
C Gerald Laird (broken right index finger) was injured May 22. He was placed on the disabled list May 23 and will be out until July.
INF Nick Punto (right forearm flexor strain) went on the 15-day disabled list May 18. He had not started throwing as of May 26.
3B David Freese (broken left hand) went on the 15-day disabled list May 2. He had surgery May 3, and he is expected to be out until mid- to late July.
RHP Bryan Augenstein (strained right groin) went on the 15-day disabled list April 13. He was transferred to the 60-day DL on May 16.
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 27 at ROCKIES: Jake Westbrook (4-3, 5.17) vs. Ubaldo Jimenez (0-4, 5.44)
7:40 p.m. CDT (FOX Sports