Jon Jay is outfield's anchor

By the time the game was done Wednesday night, Jon Jay was the old hand in the Cardinals' outfield.

Allen Craig, the game's starting second baseman, had replaced Matt Holliday in left field, and Tyler Greene, better known as an infielder, had replaced Lance Berkman in right field. Which left the 26-year-old Jay, making just his fifth start of the season in center, as the most experienced guy out there.

"It was a little different, but everyone got the job done," he said. "Those guys are good athletes. They can make plays, too, but you're always conscious (about their experience) and I just tried to put them in a better position, making sure they're playing guys the right way. Craig's a good athlete and Greene's a great athlete; you've got those two guys who can hold their own out there."

Jay "was the anchor," manager Tony La Russa said. "He's a good ballplayer. He really understands the game."

For an anchor, Jay also helped lift the Cardinals to a 5-1 win over the Astros at Busch Stadium. He went two for four, driving in two runs, and had the defensive play of the game in the seventh, racing to his right and making a diving catch on a shot by Houston's Clint Barmes that he turned into an inning-ending, 8-6-3 double play that held the Astros to one run in the inning.

"Who knows if that ball's not caught in left center what that inning becomes and what happens," La Russa said. "That's the key play defensively."
"It's a ball that could possibly get down for a run and he turns it into two (outs)," starting pitcher Kyle Lohse said. "He always seems like he's getting good jumps out there and does a great job no matter what position you put him in out there."

Jay has spent most of his outfield time in the corners, particularly right field, where he's been the fill-in when Berkman needs a day off. Wednesday was his fourth straight start in center while Colby Rasmus recovers from an abdominal strain. Rasmus appeared as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning, and La Russa said he might be able to be back in the starting lineup today or Friday in Kansas City, but that may not send Jay back to the bench. The injuries to Holliday and Berkman may keep one or both of them on the bench for today's series finale with Houston.
Rasmus' absence hasn't been serious, thanks to Jay, who has come through at the plate and in the field. He's got a team-high five-game hitting streak — he's had seven hits in his past 15 at-bats — and has hit safely in nine of the 11 games he's started this season. He's hitting .322 for the season.

"It definitely helps when you get to see pitches every day and know you can make adjustments," Jay said. "I'm just trying to roll with it and see what happens tomorrow."

Berkman's unexpected durability and the play of Holliday — who hasn't missed a game since his appendectomy — and Rasmus have limited Jay's chances at the plate. He's appeared in 42 of the Cardinals' 44 games but has come to the plate just 59 times. Wednesday's start was his 11th of the season.

"It's been fine," he said. "The days I don't start I try to go in the weight room, get some extra swings in the cage and stay ready every day so when my name's called I don't embarrass myself out there. ... I'm playing the mental games and not worrying about when my last start was or when my last at-bat was."

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