August 15, 2022

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DeJong shows off rediscovered power in return to lineup

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WASHINGTON — Whether you want to call it a reset, a restart or a re-entry — words used in recent days — the return of shortstop Paul DeJong to St. Louis’ lineup Saturday was a success.

After a 51-game stint with Triple-A Memphis, DeJong hit a two-run homer and a sacrifice fly in the Cardinals’ 7-6 loss to the Nationals at Nationals Park.

After grounding out in the second inning, DeJong batted with Lars Nootbaar on first and no outs in the fifth inning, and he sent a 1-1 fastball from Paolo Espino into the visitors’ bullpen in left-center.

“It’s good to see him hit that big homer and feel good about it,” manager Oliver Marmol said. “It’s a big swing. Hopefully a confidence builder for sure.”

With St. Louis trailing 7-5 in the eighth, Nationals right-handed closer Kyle Finnegan came on to face DeJong with the bases loaded and one out. With left-handed pinch-hitter Corey Dickerson having already replaced left-fielder Tyler O’Neill, who exited with leg cramps in the 5th inning, Marmol let DeJong face Finnegan, and he delivered a sac fly to center that scored a run while advancing runners to second and third. Finnegan retired pinch-hitter Brendan Donovan to end the threat.

Marmol said he would not have pinch-hit for DeJong even if Dickerson were still available.

“I would have given it to DeJong, see what he could do,” Marmol said.

DeJong, who will turn 29 on Tuesday, was an All-Star in 2019 when he hit 30 home runs, but he batted .197 with 19 homers in 113 games in 2021. This season, he was hitting .130 with a homer and seven RBIs in 24 games before he was optioned to Triple-A Memphis on May 8.

He appeared to find his swing with the Redbirds, batting .249/.313/.552 with 17 home runs in 51 games. He homered in his final three games with Memphis.

Tommy Edman, who assumed the starting shortstop job when DeJong was optioned, started at second base on Saturday with DeJong at short.

“I want to see him play short for several games, and see what it looks like and just lay eyes on it,” Marmol said before the game. “We’re at our best when he’s Paul DeJong. That’s how we set out at the beginning of the season.”

DeJong wasn’t the only returning Cardinal Saturday night. Starting pitcher Dakota Hudson, who went on the injured list July 15 with a neck strain, was activated. Hudson took a no-decision, allowing two runs on four hits over 4 1/3 innings. He struck out one, walked two and allowed at least one baserunner in every inning.

Hudson was lifted with one out and a runner on first in the fifth, with Juan Soto and Josh Bell coming up.

“Overall, a good outing for him, if you look at his strike percentage and what he did with the slider,” Marmol said. “I still think it was a good outing for kind of coming back for the first time. Got the leadoff guy out every inning. But at the end of the day, do you like the Soto matchup for the third time, followed by Bell, who’s 6-for-11 [against Hudson] coming into today’s game?”

Reliever Packy Naughton came on and allowed a single to Soto and struck out Bell, but then he surrendered a two-run double to Nelson Cruz, who then scored to make it 4-4.

Hudson threw 83 pitches, 56 for strikes, and allowed a Victor Robles homer.

“I felt good with where I was at,” he said. “They were fouling a bunch of pitches off. [I was] trying to be aggressive and get some action going. Get a few weak contact hits in the right locations. [Robles] put a pretty good swing on a ball that I felt was a good plan, just not executed well necessarily.”

The Nationals took the lead on Bell’s three-run homer off Génesis Cabrera in the seventh.

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