It took two weeks for him to join the club, but once he did, things sped up fast for Lane Thomas.
Or rather, he sped them up himself. And the results led to a 4-1 victory for the St. Louis Cardinals over the Los Angeles Dodgers, ensuring the home team at least a split in this four-game series. With two hits and two stolen bases, Thomas participated in three of the four runs for the Redbirds.
The glut of Cards outfielders, including the debut of Dylan Carlson, and the need for some infield corner protection in the absence of the injured Paul Goldschmidt, led to an odd-man-out situation for Thomas.
But the front office and manager Mike Shildt decided that Thomas was due some time with the big club. And the exchange sent reserve infielder Rangel Ravelo to Memphis, which means that in addition to Matt Carpenter, Matt Wieters might get the occasional start at first until Goldy is healthy.
And so might Brad Miller, who's been mostly unheard from the first couple weeks. Miller only had a handful of pinch hitting and defensive sub assignments before being inserted into the lineup at second base Wednesday, giving Kolten Wong a day to nurse his achy upper leg.
"There was nothing wrong with Ravelo, and there was nothing wrong with Lane not being here. There also was nothing wrong with Brad, even though he didn't get much playing time this last couple weeks.
"It's a good problem to have, and sometimes it doesn't work out for every player the way they'd like. But we needed to give Thomas some time here, he deserves it.
As for the corner situation in Goldschmidt's absence, Shildt said, "We'll figure out the first base thing. It's awkward but we'll make it work. We have a bunch of looks and we want to see them all as soon as we can."
The lineup has shifted quite a bit this season, with 10 starting lineups in 12 games. This time, it looked even more unusual, as Thomas and Miller took the first two slots in the order against lefty Jose Urias.
The Cards (8-4) needed to come from behind, as the Dodgers opened the scoring from the get go, on a blast from Mookie Betts off Daniel Poncedeleon. But it was the only run the starter would surrender, and he scattered six other hits and three walks through six laborious but effective innings and 88 pitches.
Thomas whiffed badly his first time up on a sick Urias slider, but after that, he looked alive. In the third he singled sharply to left and came around on a Dexter Fowler double to right center.
In the fifth, though, Thomas truly showed his afterburners. Walking with one out, he stole both second and third, and scored on an only modestly deep Paul DeJong sacrifice fly.
The Cards touched the Dodger bullpen for two more runs after Urias departed, as Matt Carpenter homered from the 3 hole off Pedro Baez, driving in Miller, who had walked before him.
The Cards bullpen has been strong in the early going, and this was no exception. After Tyler Webb gave up a hit and a walk in the eighth, John Brebba came in with two outs, retired Max Muncy, and threw a perfect ninth to seal the deal.
Poncedeleon, while floundering on control of his off-speed pitches, hung tough and left seven stranded. "We know he can do it," said pitching coach Mike Maddux. "Got the stuff. Got the tough. Good to see him work through situations tonight. It will give him confidence going forward."
It's not clear what the ultimate five-man rotation will look like for Shildt and Maddux. So far, seven have started -- Jack Flaherty, Dakota Hudson, Carlos Martinez, Adam Wainwright, Austin Gomber, Kyang Hyun Kim and Poncedeleon. All have stayed on the roster the whole season other than Gomber, who's been up and down.
"We're figuring roles out," said Maddux. "We'll settle in. So far, almost everyone's had success. And those who haven't will get another shot," he added, maybe referring to Wainwright, who had a tough home opener.
Next Up and Notes: Wong was almost, but not quite, ready after his Tuesday pinch, but after the game said he might go for the Thursday afternoon game. Miller more than doubled his 2020 at-bats with one start. Flaherty will see his third start Thursday afternoon, against the veteran David Price, who joined the Dodgers in the Betts deal.