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First Pitch: As Pujols' quest for 700 heads west, Cardinals' outfield carousel spins anew

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Cardinals play Cincinnati Reds in game 2 of doubleheader

St. Louis Cardinals Alec Burleson (41) points to the dugout after reaching base on a bunt during the fourth inning of game 2 of a doubleheader against the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, at Busch Stadium. Photo by Laurie Skrivan, lskrivan@post-dispatch.com

In today’s 10 a.m. video, columnist Ben Hochman discusses the Cardinals’ legendary duo of Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright on the day of their record-breaking 325th start together. 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 8:40 p.m. St. Louis time at San Diego's Petco Park.

SAN DIEGO — As Albert Pujols' quest for home run No. 700 shifts west and later into the St. Louis night, so too does the Cardinals search for the outfielders they'll take into the postseason.

And then there's the offense they hope reconnects with them on the road.

Pujols will be in the lineup and at designated hitter Tuesday night as the Cardinals visit Petco Park. Around him will be the shifting players the Cardinals are auditioning in the outfielder, starting with Lars Nootbaar in center and rookie Alec Burleson in right field. Veteran Corey Dickerson starts in left. That gives the Cardinals three left-handed bats in the outfield to begin the game against a Padres right-hander.

Juan Yepez, newly back with the team for his road trip, will come off the bench as a right-handed complement.

And then it will all shift later in the series when a lefty starts.

The Cardinals are looking for the right mix of outfielders to get the needed production at the plate and the hoped-for coverage in the field. They're best defensive trio includes Dylan Carlson in center field, but their best offensive grouping against a right-handed pitcher invites Burleson at some corner spot. The performance of this mix will determine who the Cardinals side with should they go into a wild-card series in less than 20 days.

Or, if they just will continue shuffling through options waiting for one to halt the carousel and catch fire.

Yepez was recalled by the Cardinals yesterday in an off day transaction yesterday. Nolan Gorman was optioned to AAA Memphis as the corresponding move. In 29 games with Memphis since being sent there on what was initially a rehab assignment, Yepez hit .272 with seven home runs and and 27 RBI's. He also struck out 15 times.

Gorman's option to the minors comes after an extended period with little success and thus limited playing time, in 10 games since the beginning of September, he has hit .187 with 1 home run and 15 strikeouts in 32 at-bats. He will return to Memphis for opportunities to work out of the struggle, as Memphis is the only minor league affiliate with games remaining in their season.

Dakota Hudson, who was also optioned after his start in the doubleheader over the weekend, will remain with the team on its taxi squad.

Lineups

CARDINALS (87-61)

1. Brendan Donovan, 2B

2. Tommy Edman, SS

3. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B

4. Nolan Arenado, 3B

5. Corey Dickerson, LF

6. Albert Pujols, DH

7. Alec Burleson, RF

8. Yadier Molina, C

9. Lars Nootbaar, CF

P: Adam Wainwright, RHP

Padres (81-66)

1. Jurickson Profar, LF

2. Juan Soto, RF

3. Manny Machado, 3B

4. Brandon Drury, 1B

5. Jake Cronenworth, 2B

6. Josh Bell, DH

7. Ha-Seong Kim, SS

8. Austin Nola, C

9. Jose Azocar, CF

P: Mike Clevinger, RHP

Pitching Matchup

RHP Adam Wainwright (11-9, 3.29 ERA): 

RHP Mike Clevinger (5-7, 4.47 ERA):

Wild Cards

  • The Cardinals are 17-9 when playing the NL West this season, and 3-0 against the Padres. 

  • Albert Pujols has hit seven home runs in his career at San Diego's Petco Park. Petco is slightly more of a pitchers park than Busch Stadium ranking 28th in Statcast Park Effects compared to Busch Stadiums 27th. The most hitter friendly park, and thus ranking no. 1, is Coors Field in Colorado. 
  • Pujols is one-for-14 in his career against Clevinger with three strikeouts. He does not have a walk.

Injury Report 

  • Tyler O'Neill has been placed on the 10-day IL with a left hamstring strain. He has been prescribed rest in hopes he can resume baseball activities while the team is on the road. (Updated Sept. 20.)
  • Jordan Hicks (stiff neck, arm fatigue) will rest this week and the idea is to have him rejoin the bullpen when his 15 days on the injured list are over. He'll be able to throw later in the week and won't go long enough between times off the mound to need a full ramp-up. (Updated Sept. 20.)
  • 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

The Cardinals continue their west-coast road trip in San Diego and Los Angeles before returning to the Midwest for a two game stint in Milwaukee. They will then head back to St. Louis for the final home series of the season. 

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 Tuesday night, and also in the pages of Wednesday's Post-Dispatch. 

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