Mike Matheny: “We’ve taken a step back” with Allen Craig’s return timetable

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Allen Craig had made such good progress in his recovery from offseason knee surgery that beginning the season on the Cardinals’ active roster as a bench player became a possibility earlier this week, but this morning manager Mike Matheny all but squashed those plans.

Matheny told Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch that “we’ve taken a step back” with Craig’s return timetable and his being ready for Opening Day is no longer likely.

There’s certainly no reason to take any risks with Craig’s recovery in the name of getting him a handful of early season at-bats in a bench role and there’s no indication that the “step back” is a major one, at least not yet. Initially he was expected to miss all of April and perhaps even a big chunk of May, so Craig is still way ahead of schedule.

Video: Albert Almora, Jr. saved by the ivy

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The ALCS had a weird play in Game 4 on Tuesday night, but Game 4 of the NLCS did as well. This one involved Cubs outfielder Albert Almora, Jr. and his attempt to spark a rally in the bottom of the ninth inning against Dodgers reliever Ross Stripling.

After Alex Avila singled, Almora ripped a double to left field, past a diving Enrique Hernandez. The ball rolled to the ivy in front of the wall. Most outfielders there would’ve put their hands up, which would have alerted the umpires to call an immediate ground-rule double. Hernandez didn’t, instead fishing the ball out and firing it back into the infield. Avila had stopped at third base, but Almora kept running. Much to his surprise, he pulled up into third base to see his teammate standing there, resigned to his fate as a dead duck. Third baseman Justin Turner applied the tag on Almora for what he thought was the first out of the inning.

Almora, however, was then sent back to second base after the umpires correctly called a ground-rule double.

Unfortunately for the Cubs, the lucky break didn’t help as closer Kenley Jansen came in and took care of business, retiring all three batters he faced without letting an inherited runner score. The Dodgers won 6-1 and now lead the NLCS three games to none. They’ll try to punch their ticket to the World Series on Wednesday.