CINCINNATI -- Felipe Lopez is hitting. So he's playing.

When the Nationals released Lopez, his prospects didn't look so bright going forward. But the Cardinals saw little of the struggling Lopez of the past two seasons, remembering instead the dangerous player they frequently saw in Cincinnati.

So far, that's what he's been. Lopez entered Saturday night's game with a .357 (10-for-28) mark as a Cardinal, including two triples and two stolen bases. He's already scored seven runs, and his start at shortstop makes it four different positions where he's started for St. Louis.

"He's played in this league," said Cards manager Tony La Russa. "I think we have an understanding of the type of player he is. We haven't watched him on a daily basis this year or even last year, so you give him a couple looks. If he looks like he can help us, he gets a little more playing time."

Hitting coach Hal McRae, who advocated signing Lopez after he was released, points to Lopez's "determination" to show something after things went sour in Washington. Either way, Lopez has been effective, and he's added some welcome punch to the St. Louis lineup. Entering Saturday night, the Cardinals are 5-2 when Lopez starts.