Outfielder Matt Holliday, one of the cornerstones of the lineup, has been out since Sept. 14 with an inflamed tendon in his right middle finger, which he suffered while taking swings in the on-deck circle in the ninth inning the night before.
Taking his place is Allen Craig, who hit two home runs, a double and drove in three runs in Sunday night's 5-0 victory against the Phillies. Since returning Aug. 10 from a fractured right kneecap that cost him 54 games, Craig is 18-for-65 (.277), and half of those hits have gone for extra bases.
"He's a guy, some day when he gets his at-bats, you'll see what kind of year he can put together," La Russa said of Craig.
As long as Craig continues to produce, Holliday -- who did not make the road trip -- should not feel an urgency to return. But the Cards need to sprint through the tape if they want a chance to overtake the Brewers or Braves for a playoff spot.
"There's no reason to push Matt to come back with a soreness that could develop into something worse," La Russa said. "Craig is a legitimate producer for us. But the club's built around Matt, one of the guys we build our club around, so when he's healthy, he plays."