"It didn't feel too good, and it didn't sound too good," Freese said. "So right when it happened, I knew something was up. But I finished it out on the bases and then came out."
Freese compared his injury to the one suffered in April by Cardinals reliever Brian Tallet. The left-hander has already missed nearly three weeks and is not especially close to returning, and the injury is more problematic for a hitter than a pitcher.
"It hit that spot," manager Tony La Russa said. "That ball up and in, that's why it's a really, really dangerous pitch."
With a runner on first and no outs in the top of the sixth inning, Scott Linebrink hit Freese on the back of his left hand with a fastball. Assistant athletic trainer Barry Weinberg came out to tend to Freese and wrapped his hand, but allowed him to stay in the game to run the bases.
"Barry could see it crunching a little bit," La Russa said. "It just gave me time to think about what was next."
Freese took his base and remained in the game for the Cardinals' half of the inning, but that was all for him. When the Cards went into the field for the bottom of the sixth, he did not take his position. Daniel Descalso moved from second base to third, while Tyler Greene came in to play second.
La Russa was unwilling to speculate as to a possible corresponding roster move when Freese is placed on the DL, but Allen Craig has been on a Minor League rehabilitation assignment at Double-A Springfield, and he is healthy after suffering a left groin strain. The Cardinals have a number of potential third-base options already on their roster, including Descalso, Nick Punto and Greene.
Removing Freese from the game had additional consequences, as well. Punto had already been pulled due to tightness in his left hamstring, so when Freese was removed, the Cardinals had no middle-infield or third-base options remaining on their bench. When Greene was removed for a pinch-hitter in the eighth, La Russa had to get creative.
That meant that Albert Pujols moved to third base, his first appearance at his old position since Sept. 23, 2002, and Mark Hamilton took over for Pujols at first. Pujols handled his only chance smoothly.
"I just checked with him," La Russa said. "I said, 'Are you ready to play third?' He said, 'Yeah.' He's got great hands and an accurate throwing arm. His arm feels great. I wish there had been more plays at him."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.