St. Louis Cardinals

Back issue forces red-hot Holliday into early exit

Matt Holliday, one of the St. Louis Cardinals’ hottest hitters in the early stages of the season, experienced back tightness in the first inning Saturday and left the game against Cincinnati.

Holliday cracked a double to left-center with two outs in the first against Homer Bailey, then scored on Matt Adams’ single to right to put the Cardinals ahead 1-0 in a game they won 5-2.

Holliday did not return to the field for the second inning, as Jon Jay shifted from center to left and Peter Bourjos took over in center. Bourjos was 0-for-2 with a walk and a stolen base.

“He felt something on a check swing before he laced his double,” said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, noting that Holliday earlier had experienced discomfort when he made a throw. “Better safe than sorry. Completely precautionary. He should be ready to go (Sunday).”

Holliday’s double was his first extra-base hit of the season, and it stretched his hitting streak to 10 games. The 35-year-old is batting .364 (12-for-33) with six RBIs and eight walks.

Holliday has missed time with back discomfort at various points in his career, but typically, it hasn’t amounted to much. The Cardinals hope that again will be the case.

Grichuk to DL

Outfielder Randal Grichuk will be placed on the disabled list prior to the game at 7:15 p.m. Sunday against the Reds. Grichuk suffered a lower-back strain Friday while lifting weights.

“We tried to get him through (Saturday) and it’s just going to take a little time,” Matheny said. “He was training and doing the same sort of stuff he’s been doing and has had great success with. Something caught him wrong this time.”

Infielder Dean Anna will replace Grichuk on the roster. Anna, a left-handed hitting infielder, is batting .393 (11-for-28) in seven games with Class AAA Memphis.

“We’re going to have a left-handed bat now available off the bench,” Matheny said.

Before the game, Matheny gave no indication that Grichuk could be headed for the disabled list. Grichuk, batting .200 (2-for-10), most recently made a start April 10 in Cincinnati.

“We’ll try to get him a couple of starts a week or at least get him some mixes and matches that simulate a couple of starts, where he’s getting a couple of at-bats,” Matheny said.

Kozma for Wong

Pete Kozma, who led the Cardinals with a .408 average in spring training, got his first start of the season Saturday as he played second base for Kolten Wong.

Kozma was 0-for-3 with a walk and a run scored. Wong came off the bench as a pinch-hitter in the eighth and singled against Jumbo Diaz.

“Kolten’s healthy,” Matheny said. “It’s just a good opportunity, day game after a night game. We’ve got to keep these guys sharp if we expect them to do anything. It’s a good day to give Kolten a day and also get ‘Koz’ going.

“He had a great spring. Hopefully, there’s some carryover. It’s a tough ask for guys to do it when they haven’t had a lot of repetition. That’s why you have to give them these starts, so they can get in there and try to put it back together to how it was feeling in spring training.”

Carpenter cutting loose

Matt Carpenter wasn’t comfortable most of last season, but still batted .272 and scored 99 runs. He batted .318 and scored 126 runs in 2013, when he hit 55 doubles. Last year, he managed 33.

Carpenter is back in his 2013 form thus far. The third baseman is batting .381 (16-for-42) with seven doubles, one home run and nine RBIs. He enjoyed his sixth consecutive multihit game Saturday; both hits were doubles, one of which drove in two runs in the sixth.

“Certainly, you can stay gap to gap here,” Carpenter said of hitting in Busch Stadium. “You can rack up some extra-base hits. It’s a big park. It plays big, even bigger than the dimensions read. There’s opportunities for extra bases out there if you can stay in the gaps with your approach.”

Matheny said Carpenter is offering “a nice balance where he is right now.”

“He’s swinging the bat with authority in situations where he should be swinging with authority,” Matheny said. “And there’s times when he’s in there really working the count, taking what (pitchers) are giving. He’s in a nice spot right now. He’s letting it fly and we’re seeing the benefits of that with the extra-base hits.”