Lars Nootbaar wears No. 21 for the Cardinals. But he had plenty of company Thursday night at Busch Stadium. It was Roberto Clemente Day and night throughout Major League Baseball, and previous recipients of the Clemente Award, which is based on service off the field and ability, were offered the chance to wear the number on the backs of their jerseys.
Previous Cardinals winners Albert Pujols (2008), Yadier Molina (2018) and Adam Wainwright (2020) chose to wear the Clemente No. 21 uniform, as did seven-time nominee Paul Goldschmidt, who has been the Cardinals’ Clemente nominee twice, including this year, and the Arizona Diamondbacks’ choice five times.
Molina, a Puerto Rican as was Hall of Famer Clemente, who died in a plane crash nearly 50 years ago while trying to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua, told Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol he wanted to play Thursday night. Marmol normally has had Andrew Knizner catch starter Miles Mikolas but gladly relented in this instance to honor the request of Molina, who was catching for the fifth consecutive game as the Cardinals entertained Cincinnati.
Goldschmidt, sporting 21 for the first time, said, “I wish I knew (more) about Clemente, but obviously, his legacy not just as a great player but all the stuff he did off the field. … It’s awesome we have the award named after him and his legacy lives on.
“I’ll just try to follow even a little bit in his footsteps.”
The winner among the 30 nominees will be announced during the World Series.
“It’s a little different to be nominated than like the three guys here who have won it, but we obviously take a lot of pride in stuff that we can do off the field as well as on,” said Goldschmidt, who received a small trophy in a pregame presentation.
“There’s a lot of deserving guys. I’m not even sure I deserve it,” he said.
Molina wore gold shin guards, gold socks, a gold stripe and Clemente’s number on his catching helmet and gold-and-black chest protector in honor of Clemente’s Pittsburgh Pirates colors. All the players had patches featuring the No. 21 on their uniform sleeves.
The Cardinals have had more Clemente winners than other team — also numbering Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith and Carlos Beltran.
Pujols plays more; Gorman plays less
For the fifth game in succession, Pujols, the club’s most productive hitter lately and on a fast track toward 700 home runs, was in the Cardinals lineup. For the fifth time in seven games, left-handed-batting Nolan Gorman was not in the lineup against a right-handed pitcher, even though he has hit all 14 of his home runs against right-handers.
Marmol said, “The wrinkle is that Albert’s swinging a really good bat. And you can sit here and play the Gorman against righties and Albert against lefties game, which we’ve done.
“But the reality of it is that Albert will continue to get most of the at-bats regardless of ‘handedness.’ I feel good about the way we’ve used him. I’m sure others have opinions,” Marmol said, smiling.
But Gorman understands, said Marmol.
“He’s not in the dark,” said Marmol. “Our guys know where they stand and what we’re expecting of them. One thing I try to do is make sure they’re not trying to read my mind.”
Burleson strikes a chord by not striking out
Rookie Alec Burleson had had only two hits in 12 at-bats before Thursday but was in the lineup against Cincinnati right-hander Chase Anderson. Marmol liked the fact that the left-handed Burleson hadn’t struck out at all. One of his two hits was a single off reigning Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burnes.
“That’s one of the things you want to find out,” said Marmol. “Against a dude … what did he look like? His approach was no different.”
Burleson, not known for his defense, has made starts in right field and left.
“He’s improved,” Marmol said. “The reports basically have stated that.
“He’s obviously known for his bat, but he’s going to benefit by being able to play a position. Left over right, but both of them OK.”
Coach Willie McGee has spent extra time with the burly Burleson, and it is Marmol’s hope “that (Burleson) can become an average outfielder. But we count on him for his bat.”
Carlson to start rehab; Matz finishes his
Outfielder Dylan Carlson, recovering from a sprained left thumb, will head out on a minor-league rehabilitation assignment on Friday night. He is expected to join the Cardinals next week on their eight-game swing to San Diego, Los Angeles and Milwaukee. Left-hander Steve Matz (torn ligament in left knee) made his fourth minor league rehab appearance when he pitched in relief for Memphis at Iowa on Thursday night. Matz threw eight strikes in nine pitches and fanned two of the three hitters he faced in the fifth inning.
Wainwright has one home start left
Veteran ace Adam Wainwright is slated to make two starts on the Cardinals’ West Coast portion of the next trip, meaning he will have only one more regular-season start at home remaining with fellow record-breaker Molina.
Corey Dickerson was given a day off in spite of his .700 career slugging percentage and .350 batting average against the Reds. He is third all time in slugging against Cincinnati behind Barry Bonds and former Cardinal Larry Walker. Dickerson is second only to former Cardinal (and former Red) Tommy Pham among active players. … Entering Thursday’s play, the Cardinals led in home runs hit since the All-Star break at 82 and fewest home runs allowed at 39.
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