Jay emerging as force in Cards' lineup

Jay emerging as force in Cards' lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Having started the season with little promise of playing time and work to do to move up the depth chart, Jon Jay has recently become the toughest out in the Cardinals' lineup.

Now entrenched as the team's starting center fielder, Jay extended his season-best hitting streak to 12 games with a single in his second at-bat on Wednesday night and then followed that with hits in two of his next three to finish the homestand 11-for-19. He reached base another eight times by being hit by pitches six times and walking twice.

In three of the six starts he made during the team's 6-1 homestand, Jay was on base four times. His batting average has climbed to .313, which would rank as second-best in the National League if he had enough plate appearances to qualify for that leader board.

"Jon had a very good day for us again," manager Mike Matheny said after his club's 7-3 win vs. the Reds. "He continues to put together tough at-bats."

Said Jay of his recent production: "I don't look at that. I'm just trying to help the team win games."

A table-setter atop the lineup for most of his career, Jay has emerged a run-producer while batting lower in the order this season. He returned to the two-hole on Wednesday, though that move was dictated primarily by Kolten Wong's absence and was one that Matheny suggested would be short-term.

"We needed someone in that spot. With Jon's ability to get on base, it fits," Matheny said of the lineup shuffle. "There's conversations that we've had about whether [having Jay hit second] would be a better fit right now, but if it didn't look like our offense was doing a nice job of clicking, it would be a greater discussion."

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.