Hot Craig staying in Cardinals' cleanup spot

Hot Craig staying in Cardinals' cleanup spot

Hot Craig staying in Cardinals' cleanup spot
PITTSBURGH -- Allen Craig's penchant for driving in runs has earned him a stay in the cleanup spot, where manager Mike Matheny penciled Craig in on Monday against the Pirates for the fourth straight day.

"Right now," Matheny said, "I can't see a better spot for him."

With Carlos Beltran struggling and David Freese recovering from a wrist injury, Craig is a natural choice to slide into the fourth spot in the lineup. But his tenure there might not be temporary.

Craig, who has driven in nine runs in his past four games, leads the Majors with a .409 (36-for-88) with runners in scoring position. His average in such spots with less than two outs is even better at .524.

"I've always liked driving in runs," Craig said. "Throughout my career, I've been in the middle of the lineup. I definitely take pride in driving in runs, but as far as the stats go, I don't really worry about that. I just try to take each situation for what it is."

Craig's three RBIs on Sunday pushed him to a season total of 71, even though injuries have limited Craig to only 85 games. He became the fourth Cardinals player to eclipse the 70-RBI mark this season, making the Cardinals the only National League team with four players to achieve the feat.

Holliday is leading the league with 89 RBIs. Beltran is tied for second with 85, while Freese has 71.

Craig has made at least 23 starts from three different spots in the batting order (second, fourth and fifth) this season.

"I think he's becoming one of the elite middle-of-the-order hitters in the National League," Holliday said. "I think he's had that potential, and I think he is that now. He's been extremely impressive and putting up numbers that are as good as anybody."