St. Louis will have stars Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado back in the lineup when the Cardinals begin a three-game series against the host Washington Nationals on Friday.
Goldschmidt and Arenado, along with backup catcher Austin Romine, chose not to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and were ineligible to travel to Canada for the Cardinals’ two-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays earlier this week.
St. Louis split the brief set against the Blue Jays and is 2-3 on its 10-day, eight-game road trip.
Washington enters on a high note after winning two of three against the Los Angeles Dodgers in a series that pitted the National League team with the best record against the one with the worst.
The Nationals were denied their first four-game winning streak of the season after losing 7-1 to the league-leading Dodgers on Wednesday.
“I’m proud of the team,” Washington manager Dave Martinez said. “We fell behind early (on Wednesday), but we had a good series. We’ll come back and continue to play good, hard baseball.”
Trade rumors continue to swirl around star outfielder Juan Soto, but Martinez is looking to keep his team focused.
Martinez has reason to be pleased with his bullpen, which has a 2.70 ERA in six second-half games, including a 21 2/3 scoreless-innings streak at one point.
Veteran reliever Erasmo Ramirez tossed 3 1/3 scoreless innings on Wednesday and owns a 2.81 ERA in nine appearances this month across 16 innings.
“He’s been awesome all year long,” Martinez said. “We call upon him, and he takes the ball and we can count on him to go out there and give us a few innings, and he does well doing it. He keeps us in the ballgame and he gets outs.”
Right-hander Anibal Sanchez (0-2, 6.30 ERA) will get the nod for the Nationals in the series opener. He gave up three runs over five innings in a 7-2 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Saturday.
Sanchez, 38, was making his second start of the season after recovering from a cervical neck impingement.
Albert Pujols is 11-for-28 with a home run against Sanchez, who is 2-4 with a 3.44 ERA in eight career starts versus St. Louis.
The Cardinals will counter with right-hander Miles Mikolas (7-8, 2.87), who is looking to bounce back after yielding six runs over five innings in a 6-3 loss to the Cincinnati Reds last Sunday.
Mikolas, 33, had allowed a total of two runs over his previous two starts covering 14 1/3 innings.
Josh Bell is 8-for-28 with two homers against Mikolas, who owns a 2-2 mark and 4.85 ERA in five career games (four starts) against Washington.
The Cardinals made a change in their lineup in Wednesday’s 6-1 win over Toronto by moving second baseman Nolan Gorman to eighth in the batting order.
The 22-year-old rookie responded by going 2-for-4 with a home run and his first career stolen base. He entered the game batting .158 for the month after going hitless in his previous 13 at-bats.
“I’d bet on the fact that he figures it out,” St. Louis manager Oliver Marmol said. “Here’s a kid who mentally and emotionally can handle the stress of being up here. He’s going through a little stretch right now that is definitely challenging. We’re seeing a kid trying to figure it out.”
–Field Level Media