Craig continues to sizzle as Cardinals pick up win over Phillies

News-DemocratJuly 23, 2013 

— Allen Craig's numbers are looking gaudier with each passing game.

Craig had two more RBIs on Tuesday and improved his average with runners in scoring position to a major league-best .490 (47-for-96) as the St. Louis Cardinals tripped Philadelphia 4-1 at Busch Stadium.

Craig, batting .335 with 79 RBIs, is two-tenths of a point behind teammate Yadier Molina for the NL lead in average, and he's tied with Cincinnati's Brandon Phillips and Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt for the league lead in RBIs.

"I think it's pretty cool that we have three of the top guys in the league in hitting --and a bunch of guys on the team that are doing an awesome job, too," said Craig, also referring to Matt Carpenter's .324 average, which ranks fourth. "We have a really good thing going offensively as a collective group. Not one guy has to shoulder the load. It's a pass-the-baton type of thing."

Craig drove in his first run when he beat out a potential double play in the first that put the Cardinals ahead 1-0. He had an eight-pitch at-bat in the seventh that finally resulted in a soft single to left against Justin De Fratus that made it 4-1.

"I just try to put the ball in play," he said. "I had a couple of good at-bats and was able to get it done."

Shelby Miller (10-6) picked up the win with six shutout innings, working through a cramping issue in his right calf. Miller allowed just three hits, walked one and struck out six.

"I came a long way in the time I had off," Miller said of a 13-day break between starts. "There's always room to improve, but my pitches were good tonight along with my fastball command and my curveball."

Jay speaks out

Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay is a friend and former teammate of Ryan Braun's at the University of Miami.

The Milwaukee Brewers' Braun was suspended for 65 games Monday for violation of baseball's substance-abuse policy.

"I was just as shocked as everyone else," said Jay, the Cardinals' player representative. "I'm glad that he was finally able to come out and put this behind him and move forward. It just shows that Major League Baseball's doing the best job (it) can to clean the game up, and I'm proud to say that. I'm happy about that.

"I believe in doing what's right, and the right thing is if you've cheated or done something that you're not supposed to do, you should be punished for it. I'm all for that; I believe that. I'm glad everything got resolved. ... Everyone knows the truth now and we've got to move on."

Jay still considers Braun a friend.

"My thoughts aren't going to change on him," Jay said. "He's been there for me and (has) been a good friend. I've learned a lot from him over the years. I'll stand by that. But I'm happy the system is working. He admitted to cheating and I'm glad he's getting punished for it."

The Cardinals' Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran and David Freese refused comment about Braun's suspension.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, who played with Mark McGwire in St. Louis and Barry Bonds in San Francisco, disdains PEDs.

"It's cheating the game," Matheny said. "It's no good for our kids that are watching, the next generation of fans. But the guys who are directly impacted are the other players who are clean. ... Their salaries are being measured against the guys who are cheating."

Matheny said playing in the PED era of the late 1990s and early 2000s was "a weird time."

"Many of us had suspicions because you heard the rumors," Matheny said. "But guys didn't go around talking about it. I always took the perspective that I had to take care of myself. I'm very proud to be able to have my career and know I did things the right way in my mind.

"But in the same breath, I don't know where other people are coming from, what made them make the decisions they made. It wasn't my job to judge them. I do know, for the good of the game, there needed to be a system in place to help be accountable."

Holliday ready

Left fielder Holliday, recovering from a strained right hamstring, ran in the outfield before the game Tuesday and said he will be ready to come off the disabled list Saturday.

"I feel great. I feel like I'm ready to go. One hundred percent," said Holliday, whose running drills were observed by trainer Greg Hauck. "The last couple of days have just been really good. I ran pretty hard a couple of days ago, but this was with no restrictions whatsoever. I have no more hurdles to clear or anything."

That's encouraging news for Cardinals manager Mike Matheny.

"Hopefully, he just takes these next few days and continues to improve and we'll have him ready this weekend," he said.

Holliday strained the hamstring running to first base in a game against the Chicago Cubs on July 12 at Wrigley Field.

The Cardinals didn't immediately place the 33-year-old Holliday on the disabled list, but when they did, the move was retroactive to July 12 since he didn't play in any games after the injury.

"He was right at the door of being ready," Matheny said. "But we've all been around this game long enough to realize if you have a hamstring that's not completely healed and you try to push it, that can set you back pretty far."

Kelly on Saturday

Matheny said the Cardinals are likely to start Joe Kelly at 2:05 p.m. Saturday in Atlanta. Their other option is rookie Carlos Martinez, who hasn't pitched since July 19. Martinez could be used in long relief if Kelly falters.

"Joe's done a nice job," Matheny said. "We're starting to lean in that direction, having Joe (start)."

Contact reporter David Wilhelm at dwilhelm@bnd.com or 239-2665. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidMWilhelm.

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