ATLANTA -- It didn't matter that Allen Craig was hitting .333 against left-handers this season or is 3-for-8 in his career against Atlanta starter Mike Minor. Manager Mike Matheny insists he didn't think twice about sitting his starting right fielder for Wednesday night's series finale against the Braves.
"When you're not right, you're not right," Matheny explained. "Yeah, I think ideally, if we had our choices, we'd have no problem throwing Allen in there against lefties or righties. But it's the timing, more so, than what the opposition looks like."
Timing at the plate continues to be the foremost issue with Craig's offensive struggles. He's hitting .202/.252/.326 through 33 games and has done little since his celebrated four-hit game on April 30. The Cardinals hoped that game would jumpstart the slow-starting Craig. Instead, it now looks like an anomaly.
Since that afternoon, Craig has only two hits (both singles) in 20 at-bats. He has struck out six times and not drawn a walk.
"It's a shame, but it's part of the game that you go through this, and it's part of the conversations that we continue to have," Matheny said. "Typically, it's something that is good for you [over] the long haul -- whether it's an appreciation deal or a better knowledge of yourself and the mentality that it takes to compete at this level for a long time. He's the kind of player that should be able to have that success for a long while. Sometimes spurts like this help that to happen."
For now, though, the Cardinals are most concerned with the short-term and finding a way to spark a player who was projected to bat cleanup. About the only bit of traction Craig has found this season is against left-handed pitching, and the Cards are scheduled to face another on Friday in Pirates southpaw Francisco Liriano.
Matheny encouraged Craig to shut it down on Wednesday -- no batting practice, no fielding work, etc. -- though he did spot Craig watching scouting video.
"These guys are always, for the most part, 'Let's go do more and more and more,'" Matheny said. "And when that's not working, you have to back off. Especially if you're close to being locked in mechanically. Sometimes a little bit of a breather makes a world of a difference."
Randal Grichuk started in place of Craig in right field on Wednesday.
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.