Spark plug Wong getting hot in return to lineup

August 28th, 2019

MILWAUKEE -- Mike Shildt wrote 's name on his lineup card Wednesday morning, and it certainly felt good.

"It always feels good to write his name in there because he can help you win in a lot of ways," the Cardinals' manager said before the series finale at Miller Park.

Shildt had been without his second baseman in the starting lineup since Saturday night, when Wong fouled a pitch off his right foot. He returned to action late in the game Tuesday night, driving in a pair of runs with a pinch-hit double before adding an RBI single. Wong stayed hot in Wednesday's 4-1 loss to the Brewers, going 3-for-4 with a solo home run. On the pitch prior to that dinger, Wong had hit a foul ball off the other foot and bent over in pain, but he stayed in the box and was able to take a leisurely jog around the bases.

"I was hurting but I tried to lock in," Wong said of that at-bat. "I easily could have tried to whale at something but I didn't want to give [the at-bat] away. Regardless of the outcome, I was going to battle."

The pain in Wong's foot from the foul ball on Saturday was pretty significant, but drilling into a toenail to release blood and relieve pressure eased some of that pain, allowing Wong to get back on the field quickly. That's good news for the Cardinals, who are playing some of their best baseball of the season in the midst of a crucial stretch of their schedule as they try to snap a three-year postseason drought.

"It definitely gives you more motivation," Wong said. "You want to be out there for these games and do everything you can to help the team win."

The Cardinals did just fine without Wong, who leads the starters with a .276 average and a .359 OBP to go along with nine home runs, 50 RBIs and a .760 OPS, but the fact that he was able to return so quickly while staying locked in to the task at hand left Shildt impressed.

"He could have checked out for a day or two, but he stayed ready to compete and that's a good mindset," Shildt said. "He didn't eliminate himself by saying he'll be out x-number of days. Turns out, he was able to accelerate his return.”

Plan for Molina

Day games after night games are traditionally a chance to give veteran catchers a break -- especially with an off-day following -- but was back in Shildt's starting lineup on Wednesday.

"We have a plan in mind," Shildt said when asked if there was a plan to manage the 37-year-old's playing time over the final month. "You look at different things and you communicate. Obviously, he's playing pretty well and he has a strong desire to compete, which we want to reward, so you always want him out there."

Missing a month due to a strained tendon in his right thumb might actually turn out to be a benefit for Molina, who's played in 85 games this season after averaging 135.5 games over the previous four seasons.

"This is a guy who prepares to catch 162 games," Shildt said. "When he misses a month, he feels like he's gotten his rest. It definitely factors in."

Thomas Sore, but Available

Lane Thomas was held out of the lineup Wednesday after getting drilled on the wrist by a 95-mph fastball from Devin Williams in the ninth inning Tuesday night -- the second time Thomas was hit in the game.

"He's sore," Shildt said. "He'll have some availability. We'll just have to see what that looks like."

Robinson Released

The Cardinals released Minor League utility man Drew Robinson Wednesday, removing him from the 40-man roster.

Acquired last winter from the Rangers in exchange for Patrick Wisdom, Robinson appeared in five games for the Cardinals, going 1-for-7 with three strikeouts. He spent most of the season at Triple-A Memphis, where he slashed .265/.385/.423 with 6 home runs and 28 RBIs, though he was limited to just 55 games due to a slate of injuries.