ST. LOUIS -- A day after giving Carlos Beltran the night off, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny left third baseman David Freese off his lineup card on Wednesday against the Astros. Matheny cited fatigue as the issue, though the timing of the lineup adjustment was also quite deliberate.

After these two remaining games against the Astros, the Cardinals will embark on a 10-game road swing that could dramatically swing their season one way or another. The club will make stops in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh to play three games against each of the teams the Cards are looking up at in the National League Central.

And then there's a four-game stay in Washington, where the Cardinals will get their first look at the Nationals, who currently own the best record in baseball.

As willing as he's been to give veterans days to rest this season, Matheny said he would prefer not to be so liberal with those days during the upcoming trip. Having the 39-84 Astros in town seems to provide a much more advantageous timing for lineup tweaks.

"I think I sense fatigue in everybody in all aspects of their game right now," Matheny said. "That's just part of it. We're just trying to watch everyone carefully, see who needs [a day off] here or there. We have a tough road trip ahead of us."

Freese has started 18 of the 19 games the Cardinal shave played so far in August, including all 19 innings of Sunday's loss to Pittsburgh. His production this month, though, has waned. After batting .458 in July, Freese carries a .174 average in August. He has three extra-base hits and has struck out 19 times in 69 at-bats.

"He's been tired," Matheny said of his third baseman. "This was a good day to get him down and hopefully get recharged a bit."

Lohse keeping open mind as free agency looms

ST. LOUIS -- The speculation regarding Kyle Lohse's future began almost immediately after the Tuesday announcement of Jake Westbrook's contract extension had been digested.

Westbrook's return to the rotation in 2013 likely signals Lohse's impending departure, as the Cardinals' starting-pitching depth appears sufficient enough to place offseason priorities elsewhere. Lohse is set to become a free agent at the end of the season, and the timing couldn't be better for the 33-year-old right-hander.

At 13-2 with a 2.61 ERA, Lohse is in the midst of a career year.

He told earlier this month that he would welcome a chance to return to St. Louis, but that he also understood the strong possibility that he'd end up elsewhere. And on Wednesday, following the Cardinals' 4-2 win over the Astros, Lohse opted not speculate on how his chances of returning have changed since Westbrook's signing.

"I'm excited for him," Lohse said. "I know he's excited to stay here. I'm happy for him and his family. I'm sure it does affect me on the business side of it, but the personal side is all I really want to talk about."

The Cardinals have not had any contract discussions with Lohse or his agent, Scott Boras, this season. Manager Mike Matheny also said that he and Lohse have not discussed the pitcher's future.

"We haven't had many of those conversations, but I know every guy is concerned about their future and how things look for them, especially the ones who are heading into free agency," Matheny said. "Those are conversations they sometimes want to have, and other times it's just a distraction and they just want to play the game. Usually, when a guy is just keeping to himself, he wants to just finish a season ... and let that stuff take care of itself."

Greene enjoys increased playing time with Astros

ST. LOUIS -- Less than two weeks after being dealt away, Tyler Greene returned to St. Louis this week as a member of the Houston Astros.

Greene was already touting the positives -- regular playing time and a fresh start -- minutes after learning he'd be leaving the only Major League organization he had ever known. So far, both of those opportunities, Greene said, have been rejuvenating.

"It been an opportunity to play the game, get out there and get four or five at-bats every day," Greene said Wednesday from the visitors' side at Busch Stadium. "Consistent playing time, that's been a big breath of fresh air to me. I'm just excited about the new start."

Greene has made seven starts already for the Astros and has gone 11-for-34 with five extra-base hits and four RBIs. He did not have a hit in three at-bats against Adam Wainwright on Tuesday and was met with a smattering of applause and boos upon being introduced each time he came to the plate.

Selected in the first-round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, Greene hit .218 in 77 games with the Cardinals this year.

"I played hard here. I felt like I played the game the right way," Greene said. "I was a good teammate in the clubhouse, and I enjoyed my time here. This was all that I knew. It has been an experience to see what goes on on the other side."

Worth noting

• Beltran returned to the starting lineup on Wednesday after missing Tuesday's series opener due to left hand soreness. Beltran had a cortisone injection in his hand to help relieve the pain, which had worsened in recent days. Beltran has gone just 4-for-23 on this homestand, results that are perhaps directly related to his hand issue.

• Wainwright's 12-strikeout performance on Tuesday came on the heels of Jaime Garcia's Sunday start in which he struck out 10. The pair became the first Cardinals starters to pitch consecutive double-digit strikeout games since Alan Benes (10) and Todd Stottlemyre (10) did so in 1997.

• The Cardinals will be featured on NBC Sports Network's new series, "Caught Looking", in an episode set to air on Thursday, Aug. 30. Camera crews from MLB Production will be embedded with the Cardinals and Reds during their series in Cincinnati over the weekend to collect footage for the program.