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First Pitch: Cardinals continue to spread out the workload in final homestand

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Pujols hits 700

St. Louis Cardinals Albert Pujols hits home run number 700 in the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022 at Dodger Stadium. Photo by Robert Cohen, rcohen@post-dispatch.com

Best Podcast in Baseball: Print the legend: A tribute to Cardinals greats Yadier Molina and Albert Pujols

First Pitch is scheduled for 6:15 p.m. at Busch Stadium.

With playoff seeding and postseason battles taking place all over baseball, the Cardinals are instead tinkering with their lineup, trying new things, giving opportunities and continuing to solidify who will be on their postseason roster and how they will want to play come next weekend. 

Manager Oliver Marmol has made a point of finding opportunities for everyone in these final two series of the regular season. But he's walking the fine line of giving players too much time off while also not giving them enough time to work through processes at the plate and in the field. Finding that fine line is important.

Among those getting opportunities for postseason consideration, Paul DeJong will start at shortstop and hit ninth in the Cardinals order. He gives Tommy Edman the day off, with Brendan Donovan leading off and playing second base. DeJong is a valued defensive member of the team but has been largely unplayable in the batters' box. The Cardinals brass hopes that by giving him more opportunities he will find a spark.

Alec Burleson will also get another opportunity to start and play his way into the postseason picture, batting sixth and playing right field. The Cardinals view the left-handed hitter note only as a potential starting outfielder, but also as a bat off the bench, and want to give the rookie as many swings as possible before the regular season ends. 

With Dylan Carlson and Tommy Edman sitting for the start of the game, Lars Nootbaar will take over in center field. He will hit second.

Tonight is also Yadier Molina bobble head night, the seventh time in his career the catcher has been featured on the promotional giveaway. Per Cardinals PR, Molina has hit safely in five of six previous games where the promo featured his bobblehead likeness. 

Lineups

CARDINALS (91-66)

1. Brendan Donovan, 2B

2. Lars Nootbaar, CF

3. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B

4. Nolan Arenado, 3B

5. Albert Pujols, DH

6. Alec Burleson, RF

7. Corey Dickerson, LF

8. Yadier Molina, C

9. Paul DeJong, SS

P: Jordan Montgomery, LHP

PIRATES (59-98) 

1. Ke'Bryan Hayes, 3B 

2. Bryan Reynolds, CF

3. Rodolfo Castro, 2B

4. Miguel Andujar, LF

5. Kevin Newman, SS

6. Diego Castillo, 1B

7. Jack Suwinski, RF

8. Jason Delay, C

9. Cal Mitchell, DH

P: Luis Ortiz, RHP

Pitching Matchup

LHP Jordan Montgomery (8-6, 3.50 ERA): After a hot start with the Cardinals, "Monty" has pitched to a 8 ERA in his last three starts. In those three starts, Montgomery has gone away from his four-seam fastball. In potentially his last start of the regular season, Montgomery is hoping to pitch his way into a playoff start.

RHP Luis Ortiz (0-1, 1.17 ERA): Luis Ortiz made his major league debut in early September and has been quality for the Pirates in his three starts, despite not pitching past the sixth inning. The No. 30 prospect in the organization, Ortiz is best known for throwing two immaculate innings in the span of 24 days with the AA Altoona Curve.

Wild Cards

  • The Cardinals host the Pirates before returning the favor and heading to Pittsburgh for a three-game series to close the season. This is the first time in 110 years the Cardinals have ended the regular season with six consecutive games against the same team. 
  • St. Louis earned its 39th season with 90 or more wins. With 91 wins, Oliver Marmol tied Mike Shildt for eighth-most wins by a rookie Cardinals manager. A win tonight would move him into a tie with Bob O'Farrell (1927), Gabby Street (1930) and Ray Blades (1939) for seventh. Marmol, 36, also became the youngest manager to lead his club to a division crown since division play began in 1969.

Injury Report 

  • Tyler O'Neill has begun a running program with the aim to return to baseball activity before the end of the regular season. He will travel to Pittsburgh and hit off live pitching, but may need more time before a return to game action is on the table. (Updated Oct. 1)
  • Jordan Hicks has thrown in bullpens as he ramps up from his arm fatigue and neck stiffness leading to major excitement from the Cardinals with optimism for his return. Oli Marmol has said he does not need to see Hicks pitch in a game before the season ends to put him on the playoff roster. He will travel to Pittsburgh with the Cardinals this week and will pitch against hitters there. (Updated Oct. 1)
  • 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 finish their final regular season series before heading to Pittsburgh to close the 2022 season. They will play at Busch Stadium again for the first-round of the playoffs, the wild-card series, though their opponent has not been set.

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 Saturday night, and also in the pages of Sunday's Post-Dispatch. 

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