ATLANTA -- David Freese's absence from Monday's lineup pushed Matt Adams up to the fifth spot in the batting order, the highest Adams has hit in his nine Major League starts.
The rookie first baseman profiles long term as a middle-of-the order hitter, and manager Mike Matheny showed no hesitancy challenging Adams on Monday, given the need and how well Adams has performed thus far. In his first eight Major League games, Adams went 10-for-29 (.345) with four doubles and a homer.
He responded on Monday, too. After striking out with the bases full in his first at-bat, Adams recorded three consecutive hits. The last two drove home a combined three runs.
"That first plate appearance was terrible," Adams said after the team's 8-2 win. "I went up there anxious and wanting to get the job done and was just chasing pitches. Then I got in there and settled down my second at-bat, and said, 'All right, this is where I need to be.' I just went on from there."
In these nine games, Adams now has five multihit games.
"The big thing for me was just realizing that it's really the same game," Adams said. "I just have to keep doing what I was doing down in Triple-A, just make sure that I get the pitches out over the middle of the plate instead of chasing the ones in the dirt."
"He's a legitimate hitter," Matheny said. "But these are legitimate pitchers that are going to keep paying attention to find where they can find holes. If he stays with what he can do and doesn't get suckered into going to where they're trying to get him to go, I think he's going to do well."
Adams collected his first big league homer on Sunday and confirmed a day later that he does have the ball in his possession. A team employee negotiated for it on his behalf. In exchange for that ball, the fan who retrieved it from the stands was given an Adams' autographed one.
The ball is currently in safe keeping in St. Louis, though Adams said it will eventually end up at his parents' home in Pennsylvania. The ball from his first Major League hit is already there.
Freese sidelined by right wrist soreness
ATLANTA -- David Freese arrived at Turner Field on Monday with every expectation that he'd see his name in the starting lineup. Manager Mike Matheny had other plans.
The right wrist soreness that led to Freese's midgame exit on Friday kept him out of the lineup in Monday's series opener, with Matheny taking the better-safe-than-sorry approach with his third baseman.
"We're just going to try and get ahead of anything," Matheny said. "He could be playing. But when he has little things like that come up, we try and nip it in the bud."
Freese said he jammed his right wrist diving in a game late last week. The soreness began affecting him on Sunday, which is why he was lifted for a pinch-hitter for in the eighth inning of the team's 8-3 win.
"It just got more constant," Freese said of the discomfort.
Freese, who went 7-for-20 during the last homestand, is getting some treatment on the wrist. He is available to pinch-hit on Monday and said that he doesn't anticipate having to sit out again on Tuesday.
Craig anticipates coming off DL on Friday
ATLANTA -- Rather than continuing his rehab work back in St. Louis, Allen Craig has joined the Cardinals on the road in anticipation of coming off the 15-day disabled list on Friday. That is the first day Craig is eligible to return.
"This is the best place for me to get in my baseball work," Craig said on Monday.
Craig has been out since May 17 with a left hamstring strain, which he sustained making a sliding attempt in the outfield late in a game against the Giants.
Craig continues to take batting practice and field grounders with the rest of his teammates.
Though manager Mike Matheny said he has given thought as to how he'll utilize Craig and Matt Adams when Craig is available, he has not divulged specifics. Assuming Adams is not sent back to Triple-A Memphis, Matheny has the option of continuing to play Adams at first and move Craig into right field. Carlos Beltran would then slide to center.
Such an alignment would at least work until center fielder Jon Jay (right shoulder sprain) comes off the DL. Jay has currently moved his rehab work to the Cardinals' complex in Jupiter, Fla.
"[Adams] just needs to keep focused on what he's been doing," Matheny said. "All that will sort itself out when that times comes."
During their last homestand, the Cardinals became the first Major League team to have three players reach the 10-homer mark this season. Beltran (15), Freese (10) and Matt Holliday (10) have all gotten to the double-digit figure. As a team, the Cardinals have hit a National-League best 63 homers, 10 more than the Reds, who rank second in the category.
Jermaine Curtis finished 4-for-4 with a double, an RBI and three runs in Double-A Springfield's 10-1 win on Sunday. Curtis, who has split his time between Double-A and Triple-A, is batting .343 in 35 games. Starter Trevor Rosenthal picked up the win in that game. He finished the month of May with a 3-1 record and 1.65 ERA.
St. Louis enters this three-game series with a 10-5 record in their last 15 games at Turner Field. The Cardinals are 21-34 all-time at the ballpark.
Asked about Jake Westbrook's string of three subpar starts, Matheny quickly replied, "I have no concerns." Westbrook, who will start on Tuesday, has allowed 26 hits and 14 runs (13 earned) in his last three starts (15 innings pitched). Westbrook had given up just eight earned runs in his first six starts combined.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.