Cardinals complete doubleheader sweep in return from coronavirus outbreak

After a 17-day absence that stemmed from a team-wide coronavirus outbreak, the St. Louis Cardinals were back in action Saturday playing a doubleheader against the Chicago White Sox.

The Cardinals, who rented 41 cars and drove nearly 300 miles just to play this weekend, looked no worse for wear in their return. They took both games in convincing fashion, winning the opener, 5-1, and the nightcap, 6-3.

St. Louis swept the doubleheader despite being without several key players, including Yadier Molina, Paul DeJong and Carlos Martinez. Those stars were among the 18 total players and staff members to test positive over a two-week span.

Saturday’s games mark the beginning of what Major League Baseball hopes will be a safe and successful trek to 60 games for St. Louis. The Cardinals will have 53 games remaining — including 10 more doubleheaders— after Saturday and only 44 days to complete them. It will be a difficult task, but just getting back on the field to play these two games felt like a monumental step.

That the Cardinals won both games is an even bigger boost.

Cardinals get off to fast start

Any questions about rust were put to rest early.

St. Louis scored four first-inning runs in the opener against White Sox starter Lucas Giolito, though most of the damage was inflicted by Giolito’s own wildness. Giolito walked two and then hit Matt Carpenter with a pitch with the bases loaded to force in the Cardinals’ first run since July 28 in Minnesota.

Dexter Fowler followed with a bloop two-run double to open things up.

On the hill, Wainwright allowed one run on two hits over five innings. It was his first appearance since July 25, when he defeated the Pirates behind six innings of one-run ball. Wainwright has two of the Cardinals’ four wins this season.

Paul Goldschmidt goes yard in nightcap

The Cardinals offense was sluggish to start game two, mustering one baserunner through three innings. Paul Goldschmidt got them turned around quickly when he led off the fourth inning with a home run.

It was Goldschmidt's second home run of the season and the Cardinals first since Tommy Edman homered at Minnesota on July 28.

One inning later, Tyler O'Neill blasted a two-run home run to give St. Louis the lead for good. O'Neill leads the team with three homers.

Genesis Cabrera picked up the win for St. Louis despite allowing two runs in his only inning.

Cardinals call up top prospect

The Cardinals added nine players to the roster for Saturday’s return. Among them was top prospect Dylan Carlson.

The 21-year-old outfielder was inserted directly into the lineup for both game. He finished the afternoon with one hit in six at-bats.

Carlson is expected to become a regular in the Cardinals’ lineup for the remainder of the season. He can play all three outfield spots and should log time at designated hitter. Carlson was a .260/.350/.431 hitter in the minor leagues. He slugged 47 home runs in 403 games while swiping 38 bases.

What's next for Cardinals?

St. Louis will wrap its three-game weekend series with the White Sox on Sunday.

The Cardinals will then move to the northside where they'll play the Cubs five times in three days. That series will feature doubleheaders on Monday and Wednesday.

Next weekend, St. Louis returns home to host the Cincinnati Reds. As we learned Friday, one Reds player has tested positive for COVID-19. Cincinnati's Saturday and Sunday games against the Pirates have been postponed as a result. If it gets that far, another postponed series involving the Cardinals would be the last thing MLB could afford to have happen.

More from Yahoo Sports: