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Craig slowly returning to form in heart of Cards' lineup

Craig slowly returning to form in heart of Cards' lineup play video for Craig slowly returning to form in heart of Cards' lineup

ST. LOUIS -- It is not often that someone who is hitting .217 finds himself hitting cleanup.

That was the case Friday night as St. Louis manager Mike Matheny inserted Allen Craig into that spot. Craig responded with three hits, including a key RBI single in a three-run fifth inning in the Cardinals 5-2 victory over Atlanta.

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In Saturday's 4-1 win over the Braves, Craig continued to look strong at the plate. The right fielder went 1-for-3 with an RBI, raising his average to .233.

"When our offense is right and everybody is clicking, that's a great spot for Allen Craig because he can drive in runs," said Matheny who is hitting Craig fourth again Saturday.

Craig drove in 97 runs last year and 92 in 2012. His production is crucial to a team which has struggled to score runs this season.

"It's just a matter of time," Craig said. "I've gone in and out of it the whole season. I've hit some balls decent, but right at people. I've had some good at-bats, some bad at-bats, some good swings, some bad swings. I just need to be more consistent and I am getting there."

Craig has gone 10-for-27 in his last seven games, raising has average from .202 to .231 (he hit .315 in 2013 and .307 in 2012). His key RBI Friday was his 17th of the season.

"I believe Allen is getting so close and there are just so many guys who have that ability," Matheny said. "And he's driving in runs. You look at his average and he's still finding a way to get runs knocked in. His average is a little deceptive right now. That's going to change as well over time. He's going about his at-bats the right way."

Bill Hester is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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