LOS ANGELES -- Cardinals manager Mike Matheny held right fielder Carlos Beltran out of the lineup on Saturday after Beltran alerted the medical staff that his lower back tightened up on him while cutting off a ball in Friday's game.

Matheny characterized Beltran's back as "about the same" a day after the initial injury. Added Matheny, "[We] need to be careful there."

Sitting Beltran provided an opening for Matheny to start hot-hitting Matt Carpenter, who leads the team with 11 RBIs this month. Carpenter has two home runs in the first five games of this road trip.

As much as Beltran has struggled to gain offensive traction during the second half, his production during the first two games of this series had been encouraging. With two hits and two walks, Beltran reached base in all four plate appearances on Thursday. He had another multi-hit game on Friday.

Beltran had not enjoyed consecutive multi-hit games since July 31-Aug. 1.

After simulated game, Carp nears season debut

LOS ANGELES -- Chris Carpenter threw 95 pitches in a simulated game on Saturday afternoon at Dodger Stadium. Assuming Carpenter's right arm responds as it should over the next few days, Saturday's session is expected to be the final hurdle Carpenter will cross before making his season debut.

Manager Mike Matheny said an announcement will likely come on Monday about when Carpenter will pitch again. He'd likely slot in Thursday in the series finale against Houston or Friday in a series opener at Wrigley Field.

"All that we've seen so far through this process, as much as you want to concern yourself with caution and be cautious about what I'm going to feel tomorrow when I wake up, I have no concern about what's going to happen," said Carpenter, who is still less than two months removed from undergoing thoracic outlet surgery. "I was really excited about the way I felt."

Carpenter spread the 95 pitches over five "innings" as he simulated various scenarios and faced several of the club's rookie hitters. Matheny said that Carpenter's pitches on Saturday looked good enough to take into a game. He said he was also impressed with the way Carpenter ended the simulated outing.

"There were times later in the outing when it looked like he was throwing the ball better than he was at the beginning," Matheny said. "You could tell that he's feeling stronger each time he goes out. The second-to-last [inning], I asked him if he intentionally kicked it up a notch. He said no. He just felt stronger."

If there is room for improvement, Carpenter said, it's in maintaining firmer body control through his delivery. As for the command and crispness of all his pitches, Carpenter appeared satisfied.

"I've really pushed through this to get to where I need to get to see if I can get back," Carpenter said. "Am I at my peak? No. Do I feel good? Yeah. I feel like my command is good."

Earlier this week, Carpenter had lobbied to skip this simulated game and instead pitch in the Cardinals' Saturday night game against the Dodgers. The organization, however, wanted to stick with its prescribed plan, which included getting Carpenter to a pitch count of at least 90 on the side before having him making a start.

Cards still weighing rotation options for Astros set

LOS ANGELES -- With several variables still being weighed, the Cardinals have not announced their probable pitchers for the team's upcoming home series against the Astros.

As of Saturday, the only certainly is that Kyle Lohse will start Tuesday's series opener. St. Louis has several starting options for Wednesday and Thursday, though manager Mike Matheny said the club will likely wait until Monday to solidify its plans.

Monday's scheduled off-day provides added flexibility should the Cardinals wish to drastically alter their rotation. Both Joe Kelly and Lance Lynn would be ready to start Wednesday on a normal rest.

The one who doesn't would then join Jaime Garcia and Chris Carpenter as options for Thursday. If Garcia struggles on the road again Saturday night, the Cardinals may want to give that Thursday home start to the left-hander. That's because the six games that follow will all be played on the road.

Jake Westbrook (right oblique strain) will not be in the mix for a start in the series.

Worth noting

• The Cardinals will not face Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw in Sunday's series finale as initially scheduled. Kershaw has been scratched due to persistent pain in his right hip. The Cardinals instead will draw rookie right-hander Stephen Fife, who has a 2.16 ERA in his three previous Major League starts.

• Double-A Springfield dropped Game 3 of the Texas League championship series, 5-1, to Frisco (Texas) on Friday night. Springfield starter Kevin Siegrist allowed four runs (three earned) and struck out six in 5 2/3 innings.

Springfield still holds a 2-1 edge in the best-of-five series. Game 4 was scheduled for Saturday at 7 p.m. CT.

• If Yadier Molina and David Freese each hit one more home run this season, the Cardinals will have five players with at least 20 homersfor the first time in franchise history. Carlos Beltran (29), Matt Holliday (27) and Allen Craig (20) have already reached the mark. Freese and Molina have 19 homers apiece.

The Cardinals had four players hit 20 or more home runs, most recently in 2008.