ST. LOUIS -- For the first time since July 25, the Cardinals' oft-rotating middle-infield alignment did not include Daniel Descalso at either second or short.
The Skip Schumaker-Barry Zito matchup was too enticing for manager Mike Matheny to ignore, which is why he opted to start Schumaker at second against the Giants lefty. Schumaker entered Tuesday 7-for-12 with three doubles and four RBIs against Zito in his career.
It's hard to argue, too, that Schumaker doesn't belong in the lineup regardless of the matchup. He finished July with the league's third-best on-base percentage and is batting .385 with runners in scoring position this season.
"We have to keep Skip sharp," Matheny said. "He can be a real spark to this offense, and he's done a nice job for us defensively, too. All in all, we have to come up with ways to keep everybody going."
For Rafael Furcal, who drew a second straight start at short Tuesday, the priority is the same. Keeping him going, though, means finding a way to help Furcal manage back stiffness, which has, to varying degrees, bothered him for nearly two weeks.
"He's kind of just in a spot where it's the same," Matheny said. "Doctors are continuing to look at him to see what other options to kind of get him over the hump. He's moving well defensively, but he can certainly feel it in his swings. It doesn't seem to be getting worse either. They're just trying to figure it out."
Those options, Matheny clarified, could range from therapy to cortisone injections. The latter would provide short-term relief but would not necessarily address the root of the issue. Back tightness forced Furcal to miss five games from July 28-Aug. 2. Furcal has started four of the five games the Cardinals have played since then.