St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Carlos Beltran hits into a double...

St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Carlos Beltran hits into a double play during the second inning of Game 3 of the NLCS against the San Francisco Giants. (Oct. 17, 2012) Credit: AP

ST. LOUIS -- So now the Cardinals know the downside of investing in Carlos Beltran. The guy is productive, especially in the postseason, but he often is one at-bat away from being on the bench. He is not in the starting lineup for Game 3 of the National League Championship Series Thursday night because his strained left knee still is sore, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.

Beltran might be able to pinch hit. Then again, he might not be able to play in Game 5 on Friday, either. “We’ll probably sit here tomorrow and have the same conversation,” Matheny said at Busch Stadium Thursday afternoon.

The rightfielder, who is having another torrid October, hit into a double play in the first inning of Game 3 Wednesday afternoon and felt something in his knee. He was removed from the game in favor of Matt Carpenter, who hit a two-run home run that was decisive in his team’s 3-1 win over the Giants.

Carptenter is batting second in the Game 4 lineup and playing first base. Allen Craig, normally the first baseman, is starting in rightfield. Matheny said the switch in positions was due to the comfort each player has at the respective spot.

Beltran has had problems with both knees during his long career and tests on Wednesday showed no new damage or scarring that isn’t usually there, Matheny said. The player is expected to continue treatment before and during Game 4 so he might be able to come to bat.

“He's had things pop up through the season that we thought would be something that would put him on the shelf for a while, next thing you know he's out the next day, and vice versa, something that wasn't going to be a big deal and knocked him out for a little while,” Matheny said. “He's a good evaluator of his health and what he can and can't do.  And I know right now obviously we have an urgency and he knows that as well as anybody.  He's going to push it if he can.  And he's going to try to get out there, if at all possible.  We'll find out from day to day.”

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