ST. LOUIS -- Though manager Mike Matheny described the four-day layoff between the final game of the regular season and the start of his team's National League Division Series against the Dodgers as "absolutely" beneficial to his club, the time off has seemingly been most valuable to left fielder Matt Holliday, who was dealing with a nagging illness even as the Cardinals celebrated a division title on Sunday.
But before joining his teammates for a flight to Los Angeles, Holliday assured everyone that he was feeling "much better, really good" after a few days away from the field. Not only has he kicked the illness, but Holliday said that he has been able to use the downtime to also get his body back to full strength.
Holliday will have had five days off (aside from participating in light workouts) when he takes the field as part of the Cardinals' Game 1 lineup Friday.
"I think he's one who has probably been beat up between the health stuff and little things nagging, probably more so than anybody else," Matheny said. "This week has been very, very good for him so far. I think we've all seen when he's feeling right what he can look like."
Holliday came down with an illness Thursday, several days after more than a dozen players were affected with a stomach virus. Holliday said he had many of those same symptoms, and his condition worsened to the point where he had to be removed from Saturday's game in the sixth inning. He was able to sit out Sunday once the Cardinals knew they had locked up the division.
Before going hitless in the two games he played ill, Holliday had hit .341/.417/.637 with six doubles, seven homers and 21 RBIs during a 24-game stretch dating back to late August.
• Major League Baseball has announced start times for the first two games of the Cardinals-Dodgers NLDS. Game 1 will begin at 5:37 pm CT on Friday and be televised on Fox Sports 1. Saturday's Game 2 has a scheduled first pitch of 8:37 pm CT and will be televised on MLB Network.
• Adam Wainwright was named one of three finalists for the National League Outstanding Pitcher honor given through the Players Choice Awards, which have been presented annually since 1992. The other finalists for the NL Outstanding Pitcher honor are the Reds' Johnny Cueto and the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.