ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols has been silent on the subject, but the three-time National League MVP could be playing his last home series at Busch Stadium this weekend.

An impending free agent, Pujols prefers not to talk about his status.

But Cardinals manager Tony La Russa spoke briefly on the subject Friday afternoon.

"I just know both parties want to stay here, so I'm hopeful it will work out," La Russa said.

Entering Friday, Pujols had 14 hits in his last 31 at-bats (.452), including a 7-for-14 mark over the previous three games.

La Russa is pleased with the way Pujols has kept his contract situation on the back burner all season long.

"It distracts from what the team is trying to do, but Albert's been one of the best," La Russa said.

Holliday takes batting practice, close to return

ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday took swings in batting practice Friday prior to the game against the Cubs at Busch Stadium.

The four-time National League All-Star said he felt fine and appears ready to return to the lineup.

Holliday has not played since sustaining an inflamed tendon in the middle finger of his right hand while swinging in the on-deck circle Sept. 13 at Pittsburgh.

"It felt all right," he said after the workout. "[I was] just seeing if I could take my normal swing."

Holliday is hitting .295 with 22 homers and 74 RBIs. Entering play Friday, he had missed the last eight games, but Holliday was available to pinch-hit against the Cubs. The Cardinals are 6-2 without him.

Allen Craig has filled in admirably for Holliday. Entering Friday, Craig was 8-for-21 in the previous five games with three homers and six RBIs.

"It's terrible timing, but Allen's played great," Holliday said. "He's been really good. That makes it a little easier."

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa is encouraged by Holliday's progress.

"He took some serious swings," La Russa said.

Holliday has played in 120 games this season. He hit his 200th career home run on Sept. 1 at Milwaukee.

Furcal given the day off against Cubs

ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal was given the day off Friday after a stretch of five errors in six games.

His ninth-inning bobble on Thursday contributed to the Mets' six-run uprising that led to a crushing 8-6 loss.

"I don't feel good about what happened, I was disappointed in the way I played," Furcal said. "But you've got to keep going."

Furcal was acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers at the non-waiver Trade Deadline. He is hitting .254 in 47 games with St. Louis.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said Furcal was really upset after Thursday's loss.

"He was beating himself up after the game, so much so that he could use a break," La Russa said. "He'll be back in there [Saturday]."

Furcal has made 14 errors this season, 10 with the Cardinals.

"I think I'm trying too hard, trying to do too much," Furcal said.

Furcal said sitting down is tough, especially in the middle of the Wild Card chase. But he realizes that a quick rest might be beneficial.

"I don't like a day off, but I understand that we've got a lot of guys that can do the job," he said.

Furcal is 6-for-38 (.158) lifetime against Friday's starter, Ryan Dempster, which was also a factor in the day off.

Furcal is hoping to get back into the lineup Saturday with a relaxed and refreshed mindset. He knows the task at hand.

"Right now, you've got to win every game you play -- it's tough," he said.

Nick Punto started for Furcal and batted second.