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Cardinals All-Star Nolan Arenado exits game Wednesday with lower back tightness

The third baseman had homered earlier in the evening but was pulled in the sixth inning.

St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Nolan Arenado hits a three-run home run against the Houston Astros in the first inning at Busch Stadium.  Joe Puetz-USA TODAY Sports

The St. Louis Cardinals were finally starting to show some signs of life, well on their way to a third straight win with a 6-3 lead over the Houston Astros on Wednesday night. So, naturally, something had to go wrong, because that’s just how this year has gone for the Cardinals thus far.

All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado, who’d already homered earlier in the evening, was forced to leave Wednesday’s game in the sixth inning with what’s being termed lower back stiffness.

Arenado appeared to still be moving around well enough, so hopefully it’s not too severe as to require a stint on the IL — though we likely won’t know more about his prognosis for another day or two while the player and team see how it responds to rest and recovery. It’s worth noting, though, that back problems have been a bit of a theme for Arenado over the course of his career, sending him to the injured list in each of the last two seasons (and even causing him to miss last year’s All-Star Game.) He is 32 now, and back injuries are notoriously fickle, so the Cardinals will likely be as cautious as possible with their star.

Arenado hasn’t quite been his usual self so far in 2023, entering play on Wednesday with a .797 OPS. But he had been turning it on in June, with a very Arenado-like .296/.348/.593 slash line with six homers and 15 RBI this month — numbers that will only swell after his latest dinger. Should he be forced to miss extended time, St. Louis has no shortage of options to turn to, from Brendan Donovan to Tommy Edman to Nolan Gorman to even Jordan Walker (though they seem committed to moving him to the outfield now). It would be a big blow to a Cardinals team that’s disappointed all year on offense, though, as Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt are the only regulars with an OPS above .800.