Matt Holliday expects to return to lineup Saturday

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The Cardinals’ playoff chances took a serious hit with a heartbreaking loss to the Mets yesterday, but they are about to get a much-needed boost for the home stretch.

After taking batting practice prior to tonight’s game against the Cubs, Matt Holliday told B.J. Rains of FOX Sports Midwest that he expects to return to the starting lineup tomorrow. In fact, it’s possible he could be available to pinch-hit tonight.

Holliday hasn’t played since last Tuesday due to inflammation in his right middle finger. We heard earlier this week that he was “doubtful” to return this season, but he has made rapid progress this week.

While the Cardinals will welcome Holliday back with open arms, Allen Craig has stepped up admirably during his absence. The 27-year-old is batting .381 (8-for-21) with three homers, two doubles and six RBI over his last five games.

Video: Gift Ngoepe singles in his first major league at-bat

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Pirates infielder Gift Ngoepe, just called up from Triple-A Indianapolis, singled in his first major league at-bat on Wednesday evening against Cubs starter Jon Lester. It was a well-struck ground ball up the middle in the bottom of the fourth inning. Unfortunately for him, the Pirates could not bring him around to score.

Ngoepe, who was pinch-hitting, stayed in the game to play second base.

Shelby Miller getting third opinion on elbow from Dr. James Andrews

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Diamondbacks starter Shelby Miller was placed on the 10-day disabled list on Monday due to inflammation in his right elbow. He had a second opinion from Dr. Neal ElAttrache on Tuesday and is currently awaiting a third opinion from Dr. James Andrews, Craig Grialou of Arizona Sports reports. That he’s getting a third opinion seems to imply that Miller’s elbow issue is rather serious.

Miller, 26, hasn’t been able to catch a break since joining the Diamondbacks. Last year’s nightmarish season included a finger injury stemming from mechanical woes and a brief demotion to the minor leagues. In 20 starts in the majors last year, Miller posted an ugly 6.15 ERA. This year, his ERA is a mediocre 4.09 over four starts.

The Diamondbacks called up Zack Godley to take Miller’s spot in the rotation. There was some speculation that it would be Archie Bradley instead, but he’s been working out of the bullpen.