Although he likely would have returned sooner if he could, Matt Holliday's anticipated comeback comes at a fortuitous time for St. Louis. Out of action since July 11, Holliday is expected to make his return to the lineup on Saturday, in the midst of an 11-day, 10-game road trip in which the Cardinals play three teams fighting for playoff position.
Holliday has been taking batting practice for more than a week, and he was cleared to run at full speed several days ago while dealing with a strained hamstring. With catcher Yadier Molina no longer battling a knee injury, the Cardinals should be at full strength for Game 2 against the Braves on Saturday. Regardless of who is in the lineup, manager Mike Matheny said his team needs to focus on one game at a time as St. Louis takes on Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati on the current road trip.
"We're just committed to trying to buy into the idea that it's today, and it's the game and this particular pitch that matters," Matheny said. "The guys, I think, do [get it]. I think there's a lot of strength in that simplicity to to do what you can right now and the other stuff is out of our hands. And whatever team comes in next, that will be the team we'll be ready to play."
Holliday brings a .268 average, 47 RBIs and 13 homers into Saturday's contest, as he will try to do his part in supporting starting pitcher Joe Kelly. Making his third consecutive start, Kelly will be in search of his second straight win. The 25-year-old right-hander gave up just three hits in 5 1/3 innings in his last start, holding the Cubs to one run while striking out four batters.
Julio Teheran will take the mound for the Braves, coming off a strong outing in which he allowed just one run on six hits and two walks in six innings against the Mets. Although the 22-year-old right-hander took a no-decision, Atlanta walked away with a 2-1 win and the Braves moved to 12-7 in Teheran starts.
Cardinals: Robinson starts, replaced by Jay
Shane Robinson started for the fourth time in the last five games on Friday, but after going 0-for-3, he was replaced by Jon Jay in the ninth inning of a 4-1 loss.
However, Robinson earned the start by going 5-for-11 in his last three starts and 7-for-14 in July. Meanwhile, Jay has gone 17-for-63 to start the month, but Matheny said he's not ready to commit to a platoon in center field.
"I wouldn't say that's where we are," Matheny said on Friday. "[We are] recognizing that he's playing very well and when opportunities like today pop up against a lefty, we'd like to keep him going while we can. That gives us freedom when a tough lefty comes around that if we need someone out there that we're able to make the move pretty easy."
Braves: Outfielders Schafer, B.J. Upton test injuries
Although Jordan Schafer and B.J. Upton are on different schedules when it comes to their returns to the lineup, both were able to test the injuries that have kept them out of action before Friday's game. Schafer likely is a few weeks away from coming back from an intraosseous stress fracture, but Upton could return as soon as next week from a strained right adductor.
"I did some sprints today, like really ran, and then agility, like cutting to see how it felt, and it felt pretty good," Upton said. "Overall, it's night and day from what it was a couple weeks ago, even a couple days ago. It's coming along well, and we'll just see."
Upton hopes to start a rehab assignment early next week, but Schafer only recently started taking swings off a tee and doing underwater exercises to test out his ankle.
"The water takes away a lot of your body weight, that's why we started there," Schafer said before heading out to the field on Friday. "So if I can actually jog by myself with my weight on the field today, that'll be a big step."
• The Cardinals are 17-7 against the National League East this season, including an 8-6 mark on the road.
• Despite an 0-for-4 performance on Friday, Allen Craig is still batting .386 (27-for-70) in July.
• The Braves are the best home team in the Majors, going 32-15 (.681) at Turner Field
Jeremy Warnemuende is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.