ST. LOUIS -- All-Star outfielder Carlos Beltran made a surprise return to the St. Louis Cardinals' lineup for Game 5 on Friday night, sending super-sub Matt Carpenter back to the bench.

Beltran was in right field and batting second in his first appearance since sustaining a knee strain in the first inning of Wednesday's Game 3. He even singled and stole second in his first at-bat, marking a rapid recovery for a player whose status remained up in the air until about two hours before first pitch. He finished 1 for 4.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny waited as long as he could to see how Beltran responded to another round of medical treatment.

Because Beltran got clearance and because first baseman Allen Craig had terrific career numbers against Giants starter Barry Zito (4 for 10, 3 home runs), there was no room for Carpenter, the hot-hitting underdog who had a home run in Game 3 and a double with two runs scored in Game 4.

"Matt's done a great job," Matheny said. "He does whatever we need and puts together tough at-bats. Lefties, righties -- it doesn't matter.

"With adversity comes opportunity and he's taken advantage of it, for sure."

Carpenter had big shoes to fill. Entering play Friday, Beltran had a career postseason batting average of .375 (42 for 112) with 14 homers. Beltran's .830 slugging percentage was the best in postseason history.

  • Giants hitting coach Hensley Meulens was named manager of the Netherlands for next spring's World Baseball Classic. Meulens is a native of Curacao, a constituent country of the Netherlands.

    The Giants gave Meulens permission to pursue the opportunity and have already started formulating a plan to make up for his absence for much of spring training. Triple-A manager Steve Decker will help out in big league camp and assistant hitting coach Joe Lefebvre will take on a greater role.

    Meulens said Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven, a native of the Netherlands, will serve as his pitching coach.

  • Though the better known Comeback Player of the Year Award will announced later, Giants catcher Buster Posey won Major League Baseball's N.L. version in voting released Friday. Posey led major league baseball in hitting (.336) and became a leading N.L. MVP candidate in his return from a devastating ankle injury.

    Posey won this honor in a vote of 30 MLB.com writers. The winners of the more traditional award bestowed by The Sporting News will be announced at a later date.

  • Giants first base coach Roberto Kelly returned to his role for the first time since being struck by a line drive during a team workout Saturday. Kelly suffered a concussion and was briefly hospitalized. Lefebvre had been the first base coach for the first four games of the NLCS.

  • When Cardinals legend Stan Musial made his way past the Giants dugout during a pregame ceremony Thursday, Giants manager Bruce Bochy came out to say hello. "I was glad to be able to shake his hand," he said. "This guy is so iconic. Everybody in baseball reveres him."

  • Cardinals second baseman Daniel Descalso, who grew up on the Peninsula, spends his offseason working out at the same Menlo Park training facility as NBA star Jeremy Lin.

  • Mike Shannon, the former Cardinals player-turned-broadcaster, threw out the first pitch. Hall of Famer Lou Brock served as his catcher.

  • Yadier Molina's second-inning single pushed him past Jim Edmonds (29 hits) for second place on the Cardinals' hits list in the LCS. Albert Pujols is No. 1 with 44.

  • Bochy said Tim Lincecum would be available out of the bullpen for Game 6 on Sunday.