4/30/2014 4:20 P.M. ET
Hitting with authority, Craig shedding slump
By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- Progress can often be masked by an average still stuck below the Mendoza Line, but Allen Craig has begun to show tangible signs of emerging from an April funk.
Craig entered Wednesday having hit safely in four consecutive games, and with his third-inning double -- the right fielder's first of two on Wednesday -- Craig now has a hit in 15 of his last 18, and he added his third homer of the year in the sixth inning on Wednesday. It's not that just that balls are falling in, either. Craig has been driving more balls on this homestand.
"Yeah, it feels pretty good," Craig said. "I've been feeling pretty good for a couple of weeks now. It's just a matter of getting things rolling."
Craig went 5-for-16 through the first five games of this homestand to push his season average to .192. It wasn't until Wednesday that he enjoyed a day this season with his average north of .200. Manager Mike Matheny has worked to jump-start Craig by moving him all throughout the lineup based. Craig, projected to be the team's cleanup hitter, has hit in five places in the batting order already.
"It's looking more like Allen Craig for sure, which we felt was going to happen sooner rather than later," Matheny said. "The at-bats he's taking are looking much more consistent."
Garcia delivers first knock with parents on hand
ST. LOUIS -- Though the Cardinals intend to stick with veteran Mark Ellis as their regular season baseman, Greg Garcia drew the starting assignment -- the first of his big league career -- on Wednesday.
Called up from Triple-A on Monday, Garcia pinch-hit in the first two games of the series. He drew a walk in Monday's plate appearance before being hit by a pitch a day later. Manager Mike Matheny's decision to start Garcia on Wednesday afford his parents, Belinda and David, the chance to see their son in the field before flying back to their home in San Diego on Thursday. Matheny's timing was perfect: Garcia recorded his first big league hit with a leadoff double off Wei-Chung Wang in the fifth inning on Wednesday.
"It's really special for me," Garcia said of having his parents in attendance for this three-game series. "It's amazing, but I'm trying not to overthink it. I have to take it like another baseball game. I'm going to prepare the same way, go out there and play as hard as I can. Hopefully, we can go out there and get a win today."
Garcia said that he learned that his name was on the lineup card directly from Matheny, who delivered the news while Garcia was in the club's food room. Garcia was batting .267 with five homers and 14 RBIs in 21 Triple-A games before joining the big league team.
"I think you're reminded of the first chance you had and how special it is," Matheny said. "He'll never forget this. Randal [Grichuk] will never forget last night, being able to throw a hit in there and make some nice plays as well. It's always exciting to watch these guys get that opportunity they've been dreaming about."
First hit in books, Grichuk 'enjoying moment'
ST. LOUIS -- On Wednesday, a day after collecting his first Major League single by lining a ball into left field, Randal Grichuk was still waiting to receive the keepsake. He had not, though, fallen for his teammates' prank.
The Cardinals requested the ball after Grichuk's second-inning hit, and it was eventually rolled into the dugout. There it got into the hands of infielder Daniel Descalso, who then flipped a ball into the stands, making it look like he hadn't realized that he was supposed to keep the ball for Grichuk. The execution was impressive. Only problem was, Grichuk wasn't paying attention.
"I got on first and didn't even see it," Grichuk said. "I picked up [third-base coach Jose Oquendo] and didn't even see it. I saw it on the replay after the game. It was pretty fun."
Rumor is that the ball from his first hit is in safe keeping with assistant trainer Chris Conroy. Grichuk said he'll probably send it home to his parents once he finally gets his hand on it.
Grichuk went 1-for-5 while making his first Major League start on Tuesday. He was not in the Cardinals' starting lineup on Wednesday, but the right-handed-hitting outfielder will give manager Mike Matheny an intriguing option against Cubs lefty Travis Wood on Friday. Grichuk was batting .400 against lefties in Triple-A before his callup on Monday.
"I really don't feel like it's sunk in yet," Grichuk said. "With those extra-inning games, coming back, going to sleep, coming back to the field, my family is here -- I haven't really had the chance to sit down and think about [all that's happened]. When that moment comes, I'll see how it feels. Right now, I'm just enjoying the moment."
• Matheny described himself as "sick" after Monday's extra-innings loss. So how did he handle the one on Tuesday? He slept it off on his office couch.
Deciding that it was too late to drive home "by the time [he] got through sulking," Matheny slept the night at Busch Stadium. Two pillows and a comforter were still stacked on that sofa two hours before Wednesday's 12:45 p.m. CT first pitch.
"For the most part, I've been pretty fortunate," Matheny said, when asked if he often has trouble sleeping. "I get a thought out and then I sleep pretty good. These last couple [losses], a lot of sorting to do. I usually use the drive home to unwind that some, too. But I think everybody is pretty wiped out right now. It didn't take long to fall asleep once I finally allowed myself to stop thinking."
• Joe Kelly, who is on the disabled list with a left hamstring strain, intends to travel with the Cardinals on their upcoming road trip. He has not yet resumed throwing off the mound but will be able to do so under the supervision of pitching coach Derek Lilliquist while on the road.
• Catcher Yadier Molina got the benefit of consecutive days off after Matheny sat him for Wednesday's series finale. Matheny said he was leaning toward giving Molina the day off and that the decision was solidified after the club played consecutive extra-innings games.
• Top prospect Oscar Taveras entered Wednesday with a 13-game hitting streak for Triple-A Memphis. He went 1-for-2 with an RBI single on Tuesday. Kolten Wong, recently demoted from the Majors, had two hits in the loss.
• Double-A Springfield blew a two-run lead in the ninth and eventually fell, 9-7, on Tuesday. Reliever Dean Kiekhefer allowed seven runs on seven hits in the ninth. Springfield outfielder David Popkins had homered earlier in the game.
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.