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First Pitch: Cardinals honor the St. Louis Stars, Negro Leagues in series opener at Pirates

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In today’s 10 a.m. video, columnist Ben Hochman celebrates the 324th start of Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina by looking back at their first start together. Also, a happy birthday shoutout to Lars Nootbaar! And, as always, Hochman picks a random St. Louis Cards card from the hat. Ten Hochman is presented by Window Nation!

First Pitch is scheduled for 5:45 at PNC Park.

The Cardinals will open a brief road trip in Pittsburgh tonight, and will not be wearing their traditional Cardinal threads. Instead, they will take the field in blue St. Louis Stars uniforms as part of Negro League Legacy nights at Pittsburgh's PNC Park, where the home Pirates will wear red to represent the Pittsburgh Crawfords. This will be the seventh time the Cardinals have honored the Stars by wearing their jerseys, most recently in the 2020 campaign when playing in Kansas City. 

The St. Louis Stars played from 1906 to 1931 and featured players like Cool Papa Bell and Mule Suttles. They won NNL championships in 1928, 1930, and 1931. Their home park, Star Park, in the city's Midtown neighborhood, is now occupied by Harris-Stowe University's baseball field.

Andrew Knizner will gear up to catch in the series opener for the Cardinals. He and starter Miles Mikolas have built a strong relationship this season, with Knizner catching 19 of Mikolas' 29 starts.

Tyler O'Neill also returns to the lineup in center field. He was a late scratch in yesterday's loss due to a stiff neck. He will hit sixth with left fielder Corey Dickerson hitting in front of him. 

Recently called-up Alec Burleson will get his second straight start and will DH for the Cardinals tonight. Though he was not able to collect his first major league hit in his debut, he did work a walk in his first at-bat and hit two balls to the warning track. In a more hitter-friendly PNC Park tonight Burleson could show off his power against a favorable right-handed matchup. 

Albert Pujols will not start the opening game. Pujols has been a menace at PNC Park, ranking first in batting average and OPS for any players, and first in hits, doubles, home runs, RBI, and runs among opposing players. His 32 home runs at PNC Park are is tied for 14th all-time. 

Lineups

CARDINALS (81-57)

1. Brendan Donovan, 2B

2. Tommy Edman, SS

3. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B

4. Nolan Arenado, 3B

5. Corey Dickerson, LF

6. Tyler O'Neill, CF

7. Alec Burleson, DH

8. Andrew Knizner, C

9. Lars Nootbaar, RF

P: Miles Mikolas, RHP

Pirates (50-86)

1. O'Neill Cruz, SS

2. Bryan Reynolds, CF

3. Rodolfo Castro, 2B

4. Ben Gamel, DH

5. Ke'Bryan Hayes, 3B

6. Jack Suwinski, LF

7. Michael Chavis, 1B

8. Cal Mitchell, RF

9. Jason Delay, C

P: Roansy Contreras, RHP

Pitching Matchup

RHP Miles Mikolas (11-10, 3.32 ERA): Mikolas was dominant in his last start, going eight scoreless en route to a 2-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs. Mikolas is on pace to pass each of his career-best numbers this season in innings, strikeouts, and hits allowed. 

RHP Roansy Contreras (4-4, 3.41 ERA): The rookie right-hander has been the Pirates' best, and most consistent, starter to date. In 13 starts this year Contreras has failed to pitch into the fifth just once, and failed to complete the fifth only three times. The Cardinals have been his kryptonite of sorts though, as in two appearances (one start) he has pitched just six innings and allowed a season's worst 7.50 ERA and a WHIP of 2.167. 

Wild Cards

  • The Cardinals have won the season series against the Pirates in each of the last eight seasons. With an 8-2 record this year thus far, and nine games to play, the Cardinals could wrap up a ninth straight season series win in this weekend series.  
  • The magic number to clinch the division is 17, meaning any combination of 17 wins for the Cardinals or losses for the Brewers would win them the NL Central Crown. At this moment the Cardinals own an eight-game lead.

Injury Report 

  • Left-hander Steven Matz (torn MCL) made his first rehab appearance with AA Springfield, starting and going an inning and a third, allowing three walks but also striking out three. Matz will make his next appearance in the minors Saturday with the Springfield S-Cards with an increased pitch count of 45. From there they will look to diversify his appearances to prepare him as a relief pitcher. (Updated Sept. 9)
  • RHP Drew VerHagen (hip) and RHP Alex Reyes (shoulder) underwent season-ending surgeries. Both right-handed pitchers are expected to be ready for spring training after a winter of recovery. (Updated Aug. 20)

Up Next

Playing three games in Pittsburgh over the weekend, the Cardinals will then return home for the longest home stand remaining on the calendar. They play the Brewers, then the Reds, starting on Tuesday.

Check back here throughout the afternoon and evening for immediate coverage of the game and any news that surfaces from the Cardinals' pre-game activities. We will publish expanded game coverage online Friday night, and also in the pages of Saturday's Post-Dispatch.

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