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MLB NOTEBOOK

Cardinals cleared to resume play, with 11 doubleheaders on docket

Busch Stadium in St. Louis hasn't hosted a baseball game since July 26, when the Cardinals finished the opening three-game set that represents 60 percent of the games they've played this season.
Busch Stadium in St. Louis hasn't hosted a baseball game since July 26, when the Cardinals finished the opening three-game set that represents 60 percent of the games they've played this season.Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

The St. Louis Cardinals have finally been cleared by Major League Baseball to return to the field on Saturday in Chicago — where they will begin a grueling, six-week slog, heavy on doubleheaders and short on off-days, to make up most if not all of the games they missed the last two-plus weeks.

The Cardinals last played on July 29. Two days later, MLB confirmed an outbreak that grew to include 10 players and eight staff members testing positive, the most recent on Thursday from a coach who has been in isolation for the past week awaiting confirmed results of multiple tests. The Cardinals have played five games in 2020, while some teams have played as many as 20.

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The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported the Cardinals have rented 41 cars for the 41 members of their traveling party to drive themselves to Chicago, where they will play a seven-inning doubleheader against the White Sox.

In all, the Cardinals are scheduled to play eight games in Chicago over the course of five days, including doubleheaders Monday and Wednesday at Wrigley Field against the Cubs. All told, the Cardinals could play as many as 11 doubleheaders, squeezing 55 games into 44 days, in an effort to get as close to 60 as possible.

The Cardinals are presently scheduled to finish with 58 games, but they could play an additional doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers on the day after the official end of the regular season, if those games are necessary to determine playoff spots or seeding.

“Obviously, when you look at our schedule . . . it’s daunting,” Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak told reporters on a video conference. “Everybody would agree it’s not going to be easy. But if this team clicks, it’s going to be very good. And that’s what we believe . . . We’re going to approach this as if, candidly, we’re getting a second chance.”

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Once they return, the Cardinals are expected to be without several stars, including catcher Yadier Molina and shortstop Paul DeJong, who are among the players who tested positive during the outbreak. Willie McGee, the former St. Louis outfielder who is now a coach, has opted out, according to the Post-Dispatch.

Stephen Strasburg departs start with injury

Washington Nationals star right-hander Stephen Strasburg left Friday night’s game in Baltimore after throwing just 16 pitches.

There was no immediate word from the Nationals on the type of injury that forced him off the mound during the first inning of his second start. Strasburg got a late start on the season because of a nerve issue in his right hand.

Before Friday’s game, Washington manager Dave Martinez spoke about taking it slow with Strasburg, who went 5-0 in the postseason for the 2019 World Series champions. Strasburg took the loss in the game he started Sunday, a suspended affair that was completed earlier Friday, a 6-2 Baltimore win.

He gave up a solo homer to Anthony Santander before leaving the game after getting the second out of the inning.

Also Friday, 20-year-old middle infield prospect Luis García was called up by Washington when second baseman Starlin Castro went to the injured list with a broken right wrist. García was the youngest player in the Double-A Eastern League last season, when he was named the Nationals Minor League Defensive Player of the Year.

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Indians demote COVID-19 duo to alternate site

After hearing Mike Clevinger and Zach Plesac explain their actions, the Cleveland Indians sent the pitchers to their alternate training site in Eastlake, Ohio, for at least 10 days after the two broke team rules and Major League Baseball coronavirus protocol last weekend in Chicago.

Clevinger and Plesac drove to Detroit separately with their baseball equipment on Thursday for an “open forum” meeting at the team’s hotel before the Indians opened a series with the Tigers. They had been on the restricted list.

“We had a chance to meet as small group and decided this would be the best path of action for us,” Indians President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti said. “For clarity, this isn’t punitive in any way. This is us reflecting and thinking, ‘OK, given all that’s happened, how do we put together the best team right now to go out and win games?’ And given what’s transpired and how people are feeling, we thought at least for the time being, this is the best thing for us to do to put our team in the best position to succeed.”

Both Clevinger and Plesac issued apologies in the days after their missteps. However, on Thursday, the 25-year-old Plesac posted a six-minute video on Instagram in which he acknowledged breaking team curfew but then aimed blame at the media, saying he and Clevinger were being inaccurately portrayed as “bad people.”

Earlier this week, pitcher Adam Plutko said he felt betrayed.

“They hurt us bad,” Plutko said Tuesday. “They lied to us. They sat here in front of you guys and publicly said things that they didn’t follow through on.”

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On the field, Franmil Reyes homered and drove in three as Cleveland beat Detroit for a club-record 18th consecutive time, topping the Tigers, 10-5. Aaron Civale (2-2) improved to 3-0 in four career starts against the Tigers, allowing four runs, eight hits and a walk in six innings.

Mets scratch Jacob deGrom with neck tightness

The New York Mets scratched two-time NL Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom from his start in Philadelphia.

DeGrom says he has neck tightness, but “everything is fine structurally” and he doesn’t plan to go on the injury list. The right-hander felt soreness playing catch after his last start. He threw from the mound Thursday and thought he could still pitch the opener of a three-game series in Philadelphia, but will skip the outing as a precaution.

DeGrom is 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA in four starts this season.

Walter Lockett gave up five runs and seven hits in six innings, starting in deGrom’s place. Bryce Harper‘s RBI single in the bottom of the ninth lifted Philadelphia to a 6-5 victory. Roman Quinn, who led off the inning with a single against Seth Lugo, slid headfirst ahead of Michael Conforto’s throw after Harper ripped an 0-2 pitch to right. Video review confirmed the safe call.

Ramon Laureano has suspension reduced

Oakland center fielder Ramon Laureano had a six-game suspension reduced to four games after appealing the penalty for his role in a benches-clearing brawl with the rival Houston Astros.

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Major League Baseball said a settlement had been reached and the A’s were informed of the decision. Laureano was set to begin the suspension Friday night and will miss a three-game weekend Bay Bridge Series against the San Francisco Giants. After sitting out Monday at Arizona, he will be eligible to play Tuesday against the Diamondbacks.

Astros hitting coach Álex Cintrón received a 20-game suspension and a fine Tuesday for helping instigate the brawl, the longest for an on-field transgression since Texas pitcher Kenny Rogers received 20 games for his altercation with two cameramen in 2005.

Laureano, a former Astros player, was hit by a pitch from Humberto Castellanos, the third time he got hit in the series and the fifth time overall for an A’s batter. He pointed at Castellanos and began exchanging words with a gesturing Cintrón, then left first base, threw down his batting helmet, and began sprinting toward the 41-year-old.

Miami finally gets home, wins to stay atop NL East

Jesus Aguilar drove in three runs, Jon Berti stole home, and the NL East-leading Miami Marlins won their long-awaited, coronavirus-delayed home opener, beating Atlanta, 8-2. Miami returned to Marlins Park following a 23-day road trip, interrupted when 18 players and two coaches tested positive for the virus. After a week quarantined in Philadelphia, the Marlins (9-4) resumed play at Baltimore on Aug. 4, and later traveled to New York to face the Mets and then to Buffalo to play Toronto . . . Charlie Blackmon went 0-for-4, his 15-game hitting streak ending and his average dropping to .447, as Texas beat Colorado, 3-2, in Denver. Lance Lynn (3-0) allowed two hits in the first inning on the way to his first complete game in six years, while Daniel Bard (1-1) hit pinch hitter Derek Dietrich with a pitch leading off the eighth, then allowed him to score the winner on Isiah Kiner-Falefa’s double-play grounder . . . The home runs keep coming in bunches in Buffalo, the Blue Jays totaling six more in a 12-4 win which snapped Tampa Bay’s six-game winning streak. Teoscar Hernández hit two, and Bo Bichette connected for the fourth straight game, the prior two at Sahlen Field. In three games so far at the home of their Triple-A affiliate, they have scored 25 of their 28 runs on long balls, including 22 of their last 23 . . . Sonny Gray (4-1) fanned 10 in Cincinnati’s 8-1 home win over Pittsburgh, raising his season total to 45, a franchise record for a pitcher’s first five appearances . . . Christian Yelich hit a three-run homer, his fifth of the season, and Milwaukee beat the MLB-best Chicago Cubs, 4-3 . . . The Minnesota Twins postponed their game against the Kansas City Royals because of stormy weather in Minneapolis, scheduling a straight doubleheader starting at 12:35 p.m. Saturday instead to start the series.

Mookie Betts already making history in Los Angeles

Mookie Betts hit three home runs Thursday night, half of the season-high six socked by the Dodgers during an 11-2 rout of San Diego, his sixth three-homer game matching the major league mark shared by Sammy Sosa and Hall of Famer Johnny Mize.

Betts accomplished the feat in 813 regular-season games, all but 19 of those during his six-year run with the Red Sox. Sosa needed 2,364, and Mize did it in 1,884.

“I just think it’s pretty cool, but it’s not as important as the rings,” Betts said.

The four-time All-Star went 4 for 4 with five RBIs and was hit by a pitch in the leadoff spot, where manager Dave Roberts has been reluctant to lock him in.