HOUSTON -- On Sunday, the Cardinals complete a 27-game stretch of playing against the Central Division. Manager Mike Matheny has gotten an early, up-close look at the teams the Cards will be battling all season long.
"It's a good division," Matheny said. "Chicago gave us a tough time. They've got some young players still developing and are exciting to watch. What Houston is doing, for the past four games at least, they're pretty impressive. They swing the bat well. Their bullpen came in and did a great job last night. Their starter kept them in the game."
Matheny certainly isn't taking any Central Division team lightly.
"Pittsburgh is another team that just plays hard and they just fight," he said. "So, it's going to be a strong division again. I think you're always making a mistake in trying to rule somebody out. Just let the season play out. So far we've seen every team and there's a lot of potential.
"I like playing the Central teams. That's who we're going to be head-to-head against. So every time you get a chance to play against them, you've got a chance to go one direction or the other. Hopefully it's up."
Jay continues his scorching-hot start
HOUSTON -- Jon Jay's hitting streak ended at 11 games on Thursday. But the Cardinals' center fielder was back at it again on Friday, adding two more hits to his season total. He hit .488 during the streak and had three three-hit games in the first five games of the recent homestand.
Just how hot is Jay's bat? Despite two hits (2-for-5) on Friday, Jay actually lowered his batting average to .414 for the season. He doesn't have enough at-bats to qualify, but if he did, Jay would be leading the National League in hitting.
Jay said he felt the key to his recent hitting streak was not pressing and staying within his simple game plan.
"Just go out there and try to have good at-bats," Jay said. "As simple as it may sound, just swing at strikes and take the balls. That's my game plan out there. I think anytime any hitter does that, they're going to have some success. So that's pretty much all I'm trying to do right now.
"I don't think about hitting streaks or what I'm doing personally. I feel like if we win a ballgame, I've done something right. That's the way I measure my successes."
Beltran returns to lineup to face former team
HOUSTON -- After a scheduled day off and then another to rest a sore leg, Cardinals right fielder Carlos Beltran returned to the starting lineup on Saturday.
But don't expect a warm reception from Houston fans.
Beltran snubbed the Astros eight years ago, signing instead with the Mets, and the fan base hasn't forgotten still. Beltran pinch-hit in the eighth inning of Friday's game and was met with a resounding chorus of boos.
But one fan of Beltran who is glad to have him back as a teammate is Lance Berkman. The two wore Astros uniforms before being reunited in St. Louis nearly a decade later.
"It's great, just like it was the first time," Berkman said. "He's such a class act and he's a great player. He's a lot of fun to watch. If he's not the smoothest baseball player there is, he's in the top two or three."
Descalso gets start in place of Schumaker
HOUSTON -- Daniel Descalso got the start at second base on Saturday against Houston starter Bud Norris, despite Friday's starter, Skip Schumaker, reaching base three times. Schumaker has hit safely in seven of his last 10 games and started five of the last seven games at second base.
"Schu's had a little tough time with [Norris], and we've got to keep those three [Descalso, Schumaker and Tyler Greene], somehow everybody, sharp," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said, who added that Greene could get a Sunday start at second base or possibly shortstop.
"We're going to have to be pretty creative," Matheny said. "All three of them are going to have to see time. We've just got to figure the right spots to get them in there."
Matheny said he had no game plan for the trio in regards to settling in further down the road on a set starter at the position.
"I think we're just going to evaluate every day what we see," Matheny said. "I think it also helps to keep all of them sharp. Otherwise you're going to throw one guy out there, and two of them are just going to sit, even though Skip has the ability to play the outfield and help out.
"But in general, we need to keep these guys sharp. So it's just going to be a term I've used before -- 'balancing act' -- just trying to keep everyone sharp and put the guy in there who we think gives us the best chance that day."
Glenn Sattell is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.