Cardinals fans eagerly await the return of Kolten Wong, who went down with a Grade 2 hamstring strain ten days ago. Perhaps baseball’s best defensive second baseman, Wong has put up a career-best offensive season in 2018, slashing .285/.361/.423 (108 wRC+) and stealing 24 bases. Considering Wong’s well-rounded production, there’s a case to be made St. Louis has been without its most valuable position player for the past week and a half.
Wong is predictably urgent to return to the field with the NL Central still in flux on the season’s final day, but he’s wary of returning too quickly and suffering a more debilitating injury, he tells Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “It’s at a point right now where I don’t know where my hamstring is. I know it’s better. But is it 100%? Probably not,” Wong informed Goold yesterday.
While there may be an inclination on some fans’ part for Wong to chance it with the division on the line, it seems caution is the prudent move. Between this afternoon’s game against the Cubs and potential tiebreaker and Wild Card games with Milwaukee and Washington, the Cards have up to three chances to clinch a spot in an NL Division Series. (Of course, if the Rockies complete a sweep of the Brewers today, the Cardinals would sew up the Central even if they lose to Chicago). Having put themselves in a position to get multiple bites at the apple, St. Louis may prefer to wait as long as possible before putting Wong back on the diamond.
As Goold updates, Wong continues to make progress in all facets of the game but feels some soreness while running and fielding non-routine groundballs. That seems especially troublesome for a player who derives so much of his value from his defensive and baserunning prowess.
Cardinals manager Mike Shildt didn’t rule out Wong getting into today’s game in some capacity when speaking with Goold yesterday. Nevertheless, as expected, Matt Carpenter is getting the call at third with Tommy Edman sliding over to the keystone yet again to kick things off. They’ll take on Cubs’ opener Derek Holland, who will surely be followed by a cavalcade of relievers, having not gone more than three innings in an appearance since April.