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Craig 'feels good' in return, may DH again in Game 2

Craig 'feels good' in return, may DH again in Game 2

Craig 'feels good' in return, may DH again in Game 2

BOSTON -- Seven weeks out of action with a right foot injury didn't take away Allen Craig's aggressiveness. The Cardinals' RBI leader took a heartfelt hack at the first pitch he saw from Red Sox lefty Jon Lester in the first inning of Game 1 of the World Series, and fouled off a 94-mph sinker.

It didn't turn out to be the night of Craig's dreams. Then again, it was a nightmare for all of the Cards, who managed but five hits and struck out eight times against Lester, and managed only a Matt Holliday ninth-inning home run in a sloppy 8-1 loss Wednesday night at Fenway Park.

Craig, who notched 97 RBIs during a regular season that ended Sept. 4 with a Lisfranc fracture of the right foot, did as well as many of his teammates while serving as designated hitter. He managed a single through the middle, when the Cardinals loaded the bases with one out before Lester forced David Freese into a double-play grounder. Craig finished 1-for-4.

"I felt good to be out there, take some at-bats and be a part of a World Series," Craig said. "I'm always going to be aggressive. I'd rather err on that side than be passive. It's just reading the situation for what it was."

Going from simulated games to a World Series opener is enough of a task. It's even tougher against a pitcher like Lester, who forced seven ground-ball outs and stayed aggressive after the Sox had given him a 5-0 lead through two innings.

"Obviously, he's a great pitcher, a tough competitor and he did well tonight," Craig said. "He did a good job throwing that cutter."

The Cardinals trust that Lester, hitting cleanup behind Holliday and ahead of Yadier Molina, will find his timing soon.

"The one thing this young man has always been able to do is hit," St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak said before Game 1. "You look at his approach, it's a very clean, short approach to the ball. It's going to be a lift for this lineup just knowing he's in there."

The question going into the Series was how much of a two-way factor Craig could be. He hasn't done much in the field while preparing for a return, and it's iffy whether he'll be able to play defense when the series shifts to St. Louis for Game 3 on Saturday, when the DH isn't available. In an ideal world, Craig would put on his outfield glove at Fenway for Game 2 on Thursday night (6:30 CT air time on FOX, 7:07 first pitch), since regular right fielder Carlos Beltran left with a rib contusion on the right side.

The more likely scenario Thursday if Beltran cannot go is Shane Robinson playing right and Craig serving as DH, with the hope he can be available on a full-time basis Saturday.

Craig said while the foot felt "pretty good" after four at-bats, it isn't clear if he can handle nine innings in the field, either at first or in right.

"We're going to get there [Thursday]," Craig said. "I don't know right now. We're going to see how I get up [Thursday], see how I feel. It's been a day-to-day situation for quite some time now. I'll see how it goes."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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