WASHINGTON -- In an effort to jump-start Allen Craig and Jon Jay on offense, manager Mike Matheny tinkered with their places in the lineup for Monday's series opener against the Nationals.
For the first time this season, Craig batted second, a spot that has been occupied primarily by Matt Carpenter this season. Matheny's hope was that the different batting-order placement would relieve Craig of any self-induced pressure from batting in a more traditional run-producing spot.
Craig entered the series batting .234 and still seeking his first home run of the year. While the overall numbers don't standout, Craig's production with runners in scoring position continues to overshadow his otherwise subpar start. With his two-out, two-run double in the third on Monday, Craig pushed his RBI total to a team-best 14. Nine of his 17 hits this season have come with a runner in scoring position.
"In those situations, I just try not to do too much, put the barrel on it, and hopefully it finds a hole," Craig said. "So far, it's been going all right."
As for the home run drought?
"I don't worry about that," Craig answered. "I think that will come. I've hit some balls pretty good and they just haven't gone."
Separately, Matheny noted his preference for keeping Jay atop the lineup -- but not until the center fielder starts reaching base with more regularity. Jay, who has hit leadoff in 15 of his 18 starts this season, is batting .197 after an 0-for-4 night on Monday. He's drawn only three walks.
That's hardly the level of production the Cardinals are seeking from someone who is expected to set the tone from up top. While Jay works to find his way on offense, Carpenter looks to be the likeliest leadoff fill-in.
"If everybody is going great, you probably want to see him at the top of the lineup," Matheny said of Jay. "I think that second spot fits Matt well, but he could also fit anywhere in the next five spots and do a nice job. He could be a run-producer. He hasn't been as sharp as he'd like to be either. We're fighting right now, and a number of these guys would say they're not where they want to be on offense. But overall, we just have to figure out ways to keep making it happen."
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.Less