As Paul DeJong returns ‘down memory lane’ to St. Louis, the Chicago White Sox get shut out for the 9th time

ST. LOUIS — St. Louis Cardinals fans rose from their seats to give Paul DeJong a standing ovation before his second-inning at-bat Friday at Busch Stadium.

The Chicago White Sox shortstop tipped his helmet to the crowd, acknowledging the touching gesture.

“It was pretty cool,” DeJong said. “I appreciate the fans here and am thankful for all the memories, all the opportunities. It’s special to come back to an organization like this that really values their players. It was nice to see that tonight.”

After spending parts of seven seasons with the Cardinals, DeJong returned to Busch Stadium as a visiting player for the first time. He went 0-for-3 as the Sox were limited to three hits in a 3-0 loss in front of 34,010.

It’s the ninth time the Sox have been shut out this season. They’ve lost four straight to fall to 6-26, the worst 32-game start in franchise history.

“(Cardinals starter) Sonny (Gray) was tough,” manager Pedro Grifol said. “We’ve got to find ways to do something, but this guy has been doing it for a long time. He didn’t make too many mistakes. He pounded the corners and he used all his pitches. He did a really good job of pitching.”

The Sox are 1-14 in away games, tied for the worst road start in the modern era (since 1901). It has happened nine other times, most recently by the Colorado Rockies and Houston Astros in 2005.

The strong Cardinals pitching put a damper on an otherwise memorable day for DeJong, who before the game compared the experience to seeing an old friend. Sitting in the visiting dugout while talking to reporters, he noted, “It’s a different view.”

“I’m just happy to be here with this team and excited to be in St. Louis,” DeJong said. “This park is iconic. I spent so much time here. The red seats. The Arch view. The fans are always into it, they always show out.

“A lot of great memories that I had here and I’m hoping to make some more this weekend.”

Chicago baseball report: What’s next for Seiya Suzuki and the Cubs — and White Sox ‘extremely impressed’ with Tommy Pham’s impact

DeJong is one of four Sox players with ties to the Cardinals: Relievers John Brebbia (2017-19) and Dominic Leone (2018-19) and outfielder Tommy Pham (2014-18) are the others.

“St. Louis was the first team I broke in with, so it’s always different coming here,” Pham said. “Great fans, baseball fans. Tough place to hit, big gaps. But St. Louis will always have a special place in my heart.”

DeJong, who played with the Cardinals from 2017-23, also used the word “special.”

“You want to enjoy the moment when you get it,” he said. “Seeing all the smiles and seeing all the guys I used to share a clubhouse with was really special for me.”

Related Articles

DeJong played 698 games with the Cardinals, earning All-Star honors in 2019. They dealt him to Toronto on Aug. 1 last season, and after the Blue Jays released him, he landed with the San Francisco Giants on Aug. 23.

He signed a one-year contract with the Sox in the offseason as they looked for steady defense up the middle. He entered Friday slashing .216/.266/.405 with three home runs and six RBIs in 26 games.

DeJong, 30, said the past year has been “a real learning experience for me.”

“I’ve been able to get away from St. Louis and learn more about myself as I progress in my baseball career,” he said. “Coming back here gives me that perspective of where I’ve been and where I started. It’s nice to be able to come back and kind of reflect on what I’ve done and just enjoy the moment, really.”

DeJong called Friday “a real trip down memory lane for me.”

“At the end of the day, I was really just focused on getting my at-bats,” he said after the game. “I appreciate the ovation. I was just trying to help my team there. Gray pitched good tonight and the bullpen closed the door. They did a pretty good job tonight.”

Gray allowed the three hits and struck out six with one walk in seven innings.

The Sox will try to rebound against a familiar face Saturday. Former teammate Lance Lynn, who spent parts of three seasons with the Sox, will start for the Cardinals.

“I’ve enjoyed all my stops,” Lynn said Friday.

Lynn went 25-22 with a 4.23 ERA in 70 starts for the Sox from 2021-23. His best season in Chicago was his first in 2021. He went 11-6 with a 2.69 ERA and 176 strikeouts, earning All-Star honors and finishing third in American League Cy Young Award voting.

The Sox traded Lynn and reliever Joe Kelly to the Los Angeles Dodgers last July for pitchers Jordan Leasure and Nick Nastrini and outfielder Trayce Thompson. The 36-year-old Lynn signed with the Cardinals in the offseason, and he’s 1-0 with a 2.64 ERA and 29 strikeouts in six starts.

“Everything feels good,” he said.

Lynn reminded the visiting Chicago reporters that he generally doesn’t talk about the opposing team before a start — or himself much at all. He said Saturday would be “just like facing any other team — do your homework and get ready to pitch.”