Cardinals finally return home, will face Reds

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The St. Louis Cardinals will host their first game at Busch Stadium since July 26 when they open a four-game series against the visiting Cincinnati Reds Thursday night.

After returning from the COVID-19 outbreak that idled them for 17 days, the Cardinals played eight games in five days against the White Sox and Cubs in Chicago. They split their doubleheader with the Cubs Wednesday, winning the first game 9-3 before losing the second 4-2.

A minor outbreak kept the Reds off the field for four days. They also played a doubleheader on the road Wednesday, falling to the Kansas City Royals 4-0 in the first game before winning the nightcap 5-0.

The Cardinals are regaining key players sidelined by the virus. All-Star catcher Yadier Molina could return for the series opener and shortstop Paul DeJong could come back later in the series.

“Yadi’s ready to go,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “So that’s probably going to happen sooner rather than later. Paulie’s getting his legs under him, getting everything settled. We’ll figure out Paulie in the next couple days, but I would expect Yadi to be sooner rather than later.”

Playing so many games after a long layoff put a strain on the Cardinals pitching staff. They used 21 different pitchers in their first eight games back from their shutdown and 25 overall this season.

They are still missing starting pitcher Carlos Martinez and relievers Ryan Helsley, Junior Fernandez and Kodi Whitley due to the virus.

The Cardinals will start Adam Wainwright (2-0, 1.64 ERA) Thursday. He was 1-1 with a 6.75 ERA in three starts against the Reds last season.

Wainwright has a 10-12 career mark against the Reds with a 5.25 ERA in 32 games, including 27 starts. Joey Votto (17 for 51, six doubles, three homers, nine RBIs) and Tucker Barnhart (6 for 14, double, homer) have hit Wainwright well in their career.

The Reds will take the field on Thursday facing a problem not related to the coronavirus.

On Wednesday night, the team suspended longtime broadcaster Thom Brennaman after he made a homophobic slur. The Reds were playing the first game of a doubleheader in Kansas City, which he described as “one of the (expletive) capitals of the world” as a camera spanned the field before the top of the seventh inning. He was pulled off the air midway through Game 2 after issuing an on-air apology.

After the game, some Reds players took to Twitter to express their own apologies.

Cincinnati reliever Amir Garrett tweeted, “To the LGBTQ community just know I am with you, and whoever is against you, is against me. I’m sorry for what was said today.”

It will be up to veteran Sonny Gray (4-1, 2.05 ERA) to lead the Reds past the distraction.

Gray has allowed one run or fewer in four of his five starts this season.He beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-1 in his most recent outing, bouncing back nicely from a 9-3 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers.

“I felt good. I had a good week, it was a good work week bullpen-wise,” Gray said after that game. “I had a good game plan, not about the Pirates or whatever, just self-assessment game plan. I kind of worked on myself a lot this week, worked on pitching and feeling how I want to throw the ball.

“The league is constantly making adjustments on you. You have to constantly be making adjustments with the league, from game to game, week to week.”

Gray is 1-1 with a 1.08 ERA in three career starts against the Cardinals. Dexter Fowler is 7-for-14 in his career against Gray, but Paul Goldschmidt is hitless in 11 at-bats with five strikeouts.

The Reds returned infielder Mike Moustakas from the injured list Wednesday, but they placed outfielder Nick Senzel on the IL. Shogo Akiyama will get most of the starts in center field in Senzel’s absence.

“Shogo, as we’ve seen, has taken left field, but we also know that he’s just as good, if not better and has more playing time in center field in his career, so (we have) great options,” Reds manager David Bell said.

–Field Level Media

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