The St. Louis Cardinals are getting back to full force following 16 days without games due to a COVID-19 outbreak. The Cardinals missed 18 games after 10 players and eight staff members tested positive for COVID-19. This hiatus marked the longest midseason break not caused by a strike in MLB history. St. Louis is 9-8 since their return with an 11-11 record overall.
Though the Cardinals were down 10 team members for a few games, players are now returning from the COVID-19 list. All seven Cardinals who tested positive in Milwaukee have been cleared to return to play. The other three players expect to be cleared soon. Veteran catcher Yadier Molina returned to the roster on Thursday, August 20. Molina has 12 hits and seven RBI since returning to the Cardinals lineup. 2019 All-Star Paul DeJong also returned to play last weekend. Pitchers Carlos Martinez and Ryan Helsley are reportedly near a return to the roster.
While the Cardinals are happy to welcome back their returning players, the last couple weeks offered unexpected opportunities for new players. Eleven Cardinals have made their major league debuts since the team returned to play. Highly anticipated prospect Dylan Carlson debuted on August 15. Carlson has 11 hits, including three doubles and a home run. Several pitchers debuted over the last two weeks, including Seth Elledge, Johan Oviedo, Ricardo Sanchez, and Nabil Crismatt. New addition Brad Miller has also been able to see more at-bats recently. He is currently slashing .318/.446/.568. 25-year-old catcher Andrew Knizner played in six games while Molina was out.
The Cardinals pitching boasts the lowest batting average against in all of baseball right now. The Cardinals are also third in on-base-percentage. Third baseman and designated hitter Matt Carpenter is optimistic about the season, saying, “We’re basically playing like we have nothing to lose, because we really don’t. I mean, not a lot of people expect a lot out of us, given the circumstances and what we’ve been through. So nobody’s expecting anything out of us, and sometimes that’s a good place to be in mentally.”
Many of the Cardinals’ debuts have been successful or, at the very least, unremarkable. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of reliever Roel Ramirez. Ramirez gave up four consecutive home runs to the Chicago White Sox in his debut on August 16. Apart from this appearance, St. Louis has also struggled with pitching depth. The Cardinals have limited their starters’ pitch counts since their return to baseball. The starting pitchers will need to pitch more innings as the season continues.
The Cardinals have a grueling schedule for the remainder of the season. They are slated to play 36 games over the next 31 days. St. Louis will have just two off days in September. If playoff spots and seeds have not been determined by their last game, the Cardinals could play deciding games at the end of September. St. Louis can contribute much of their successful return to baseball to their young talent. Hopefully, the Cardinals’ combination of young players and experienced veterans will bring them back to full force for the push to October.
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