DeJong homers in Cards' 1st intrasquad game

July 10th, 2020

ST. LOUIS -- Lineups were exchanged -- well, tweeted -- and the Cardinals were set to play their first game since March on Thursday night in the first intrasquad matchup of Summer Camp at Busch Stadium.

There were ball/strike and lineup controversies, double plays and a home run. And there was a winner. Cardinals Red (in the home whites and led by Opening Day starter ) beat Cardinals Blue (in road grays, led by ), 4-1, in four innings.

The intrasquad game MVP went to shortstop , who had four RBIs off a two-run single in the first inning and a two-run home run to left field in the fourth. The production from the cleanup spot -- a question the Cardinals needed to answer in spring -- was a good sign for the Cardinals, and for DeJong. The shortstop hit .193 last season with runners in scoring position, and he’s worked on his production in those situations.

“DeJong’s on pace for about 480 RBIs for the season” manager Mike Shildt joked. “Just getting his head around staying with his approach, which has been fantastic in every simulated game we’ve played, [Thursday night] no exception. … I think it’s as much about the awareness of situation and just trying to understand what he’s looking to do to get that run in instead of trying to do too much.”

With first pitch set for 6 p.m., and the Cardinals playing in 93-degree weather, things seemed normal for a minute -- until there was silence when Flaherty threw the first pitch in an empty ballpark. The Cardinals tried to inject some energy into the ballpark, playing walk-up music and the pitchers' warmup songs, as well as the home run sirens when DeJong went deep, but the empty park is something the players will have to get used to.

“It’s definitely a little weird,” second baseman Kolten Wong said. “Having a crowd is unbelievable -- 40,000 people, especially in St. Louis when everyone is backing you up, is huge, but we grew up playing baseball with no fans. We’ve played this game since we were little kids, so it’s just about going back out there and doing your thing.”

Flaherty, Hudson strong in starts
Despite one of their own switching teams last minute, when designated hitter Max Schrock was “traded” and became the second baseman for the road team, Cardinals Red took the lead early when Wong and Paul Goldschmidt hit singles off Hudson. With the infield drawn in, DeJong skipped a single past shortstop Edmundo Sosa to score two. In three innings, Hudson allowed three hits, two walks and one wild pitch, throwing 43 pitches.

“You get to kind of experiment to figure out what works whenever you start facing guys over and over and over,” Hudson said. “That’s when I think it’ll allow me to kind of take a step back, but also kind of gain some mental edge going forward. We’re talking throughout this whole process. So someone gets a hit, I get a guy, it’s a lot of back and forth. Maybe they see something, maybe I see something. We’re just trying to grow and get better as we go.”

Cardinals Blue loaded the bases against Flaherty in the third after Justin Williams walked and Sosa and Dexter Fowler singled. Third baseman Tommy Edman reached on an RBI fielder’s choice, but Flaherty got out of the inning with a ground ball. In three innings, Flaherty allowed one run on two hits and two walks with two strikeouts over 43 pitches.

2021 schedule announced
The Cardinals are scheduled to open the 2021 season in Cincinnati on April 1, the club announced Thursday. After playing the following three games in Miami, St. Louis will have its home opener on April 8 against Milwaukee.

Interleague Play in 2021 will feature AL Central opponents, the same teams the Cardinals will play this year in the 60-game regular season. The Cards will play the White Sox and Tigers on the road, and they will host the Indians for two games in June.

The Cardinals end the regular season with a six-game homestand against the Brewers and Cubs, with the last game of the season on Oct. 3, 2021.

Cardinals donate to Stars Park renovation
In conjunction with Cardinals Care and Harris-Stowe State University, the Cardinals will break ground on a renovation project of Stars Park in a ceremony on Tuesday. Stars Park was the home of St. Louis’ Negro Leagues team, the Stars, in the 1920s and ‘30s. Players like James “Cool Papa” Bell, George “Mule” Suttles and Willie Wells built a dynasty at Stars Park and won three championships in nine years of the team’s existence. Now home to Harris-Stowe’s baseball team, the Cardinals are donating $1.1 million for the building of new baseball and softball fields at the university.

At the corner of Market Street and Compton Avenue in St. Louis, the ballpark no longer has its grandstands or the trolley car barn that served as the left-field wall, but the field is still there -- and fairly close to where the original one was. There is a plaque along the field’s fence that details the piece of St. Louis baseball history that stands there.

Worth noting
• Brad Miller and Matt Wieters did not play in Thursday’s intrasquad game despite being in the initial lineups, which is why Schrock switched teams. Andrew Knizner moved from DH to catcher, and Williams stepped in at DH on Cardinals Blue. Shildt said the team chose for Wieters and Miller not to play, but he did not elaborate why.

• Andrew Miller (Cardinals Blue) and Daniel Ponce de Leon (Cardinals Red) each pitched one inning of relief in the intrasquad game. Ponce de Leon finished his outing with two innings of batting practice. Left-hander Brett Cecil, who is now throwing with a sidearm delivery, and Ryan Helsley also threw batting practice after the game.

• The next intrasquad game will be Saturday, with Carlos Martínez starting for one team, Shildt said. Adam Wainwright and Kwang-Hyun Kim will throw batting practice on Friday.