Notes: Kennedy looking to step it up
Second baseman has struggled this season against lefties
ST. LOUIS -- Second baseman Adam Kennedy, who didn't play on Friday night in the series opener against the Nationals and played just one of the three games against the Pirates in the prior series, was back in the lineup for Saturday's game against Washington.
Manager Tony La Russa has opted to put switch-hitter Aaron Miles at second when there is a lefty on the mound, and the Cards are in the middle of a stretch where six of the eight starting pitchers are lefties, ending with Jeff Francis, who is scheduled to pitch on Monday, when the Cards hit the road in Colorado.
Kennedy has had a difficult time with lefties this season, going just 2-for-22 and drawing two walks. Lifetime, Kennedy is a .250 hitter against lefties. On the flip side, Miles is feasting off left-handers. He is 11-for-32 against southpaws this season with an on-base percentage of .400.
"I've pretty much forced their hand. The numbers aren't there," Kennedy said. "When the team's not playing well, there are certain guys that are going to pay for that and lose playing time, and I'm one of them."
On the other hand, Miles, who has flourished lately, has caught the eyes of his teammates and manager. He had a three-hit game on Tuesday against Pirates lefty Zach Duke. Kennedy played the next game with a righty on the mound, and Miles returned for the series finale and banged out another three-hit game. In the series opener against the Nats on Friday, Miles had two more hits to up his average to .298.
"It's hard to ignore when a guy is getting a couple of hits a game," Kennedy said. "Especially with an offense that's struggling, you look for a spark."
Miles also spent a little time filling in for David Eckstein at shortstop earlier in the season. La Russa reiterated on Saturday that having three middle infielders isn't a bad thing for the team.
"If you play 162 games [and] have a trio of guys that are that competitive, it's good for the team," La Russa said. "Over the course of the year, the way it turns out, they all play. You don't have a drop-off with whatever combination you put out there. It's a big asset for our team."
Since he hasn't been in the lineup regularly, Kennedy took some extra ground balls before Saturday's game to make sure he stays sharp defensively. In the only game he played in the Pittsburgh series, he made an error on a groundball that got past him and into the outfield.
"I tried to be too careful with it and try and get in front of it. I should have just backhanded it," Kennedy said. "I made it a really tough play."
Spiezio in the lineup: Scott Spiezio was in the lineup for Saturday's game, batting cleanup. Spiezio got the start in right field for the first time since May 5.
With a righty on the mound, La Russa played Spiezio over Juan Encarnacion and Ryan Ludwick. The skipper decided to bat Spiezio fourth, so Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds could continue to hit in their normal spots in the lineup -- fifth and sixth, respectively. Encarnacion has been occupying the cleanup spot.
"[Spiezio's] been very good against this club," La Russa said. "Last year, he crushed the Nationals, so I'm anxious to get him in there."
Spiezio was 8-for-17 against the Nats last season with seven RBIs. Lifetime, the switch-hitter is batting .323 against the Nats.
Bullpen ready to go: The entire Cards bullpen was available for Saturday's game. Closer Jason Isringhausen, who picked up back-to-back saves in the final two games of the Pirates series, and setup man Ryan Franklin, who was recovering from strep throat, were both unavailable for Friday's opener.
La Russa was also reluctant to use Todd Wellemeyer, who had thrown in two of the previous three games, on Friday.
"[Franklin] should be stronger. He said he could pitch [on Friday], [but] Barry (Weinberg) said, 'Don't use him,'" La Russa said. "[Isringhausen] said he felt good; we [just] didn't think it was smart to push him [on Friday]."
Ronnie gets his ring: Ronnie Belliard received his World Series ring before Saturday's game. All of the Cardinals who were on the roster last year came out on the field to congratulate Belliard after general manager Walt Jocketty presented his ring. Belliard played 54 games with the Cards during the regular season last year and was a key contributor to their postseason run. Belliard signed a Minor League contract with the Nats before this season.
Wilson update: La Russa said nothing has changed with injured outfielder Preston Wilson. Wilson has been on the disabled list since May 6 with a sore right knee, where there's still a considerable amount of swelling. Wilson has been at the stadium receiving treatment before and after the games.
Baby 'Birds: Triple-A Memphis lost to Round Rock, 8-2, on Friday night. Randy Keisler picked up the loss, going 5 2/3 innings and giving up eight earned runs on 11 hits. Nick Stavinoha went 3-for-4 with an RBI. Travis Hanson hit his second home run of the season. ... Double-A Springfield lost to Corpus Christi, 4-1, despite a solid outing from starter Cory Rauschenberger, who went seven innings, giving up just one run on three hits and striking out four. Joe Mather went 2-for-4 with a double and a run scored. ... Class A Palm Beach was shut out by Lakeland, 5-0. Trey Hearne picked up the loss. Hearne went 5 2/3 innings, giving up five runs on 11 hits. Nathan Southard went 2-for-3. ... Class A Quad Cities lost to Beloit, 5-2. Brandon Buckman continued his solid play, going 2-for-4 with an RBI. Through 45 games, Buckman is hitting .350 with nine home runs and 40 RBIs.
Player of the day honors go to Stavinoha. The outfielder continued his recent hot play, upping his average to .277. Over his last seven games, Stavinoha is 15-for-29 with two home runs and six RBIs. Stavinoha has been hitting in the cleanup spot and seeing time at each of the corner outfield spots.
Coming up: The Cards and Nationals will finish their three game series with an afternoon game on Sunday. The Cards will send Adam Wainwright to the mound as the Nats counter with left-hander Matt Chico. First pitch is schedule for 1:15 p.m. CT.
Dan Berk is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.