There was no sun to shine on the Cardinals Monday afternoon as baseball made its return to Busch Stadium for the first time since Game 5 of the 2013 World Series. The gloomy weather didn’t affect the Cardinals though as St. Louis beat the Reds 5-3 in front of a record crowd of 47,492.
“Every time you have got the opportunity to be here in this city and be part of this opening day, it is amazing,” Cardinals’ catcher Molina said. “It never gets old.”
The second matchup of the year for Cardinals’ starter Michael Wacha and Reds’ starter Tony Cingrani was nothing like the zeros thrown up on the board for 8 ½ innings in the first meeting between these same to hurlers.
Molina, who started his 10th consecutive home opener for the Cardinals, gave his team the lead in the first inning and St. Louis never looked back.
“Michael did a nice job and it was very fitting for Yadi to be the guy to get us going right there,” Cardinals skipper Mike Matheny said. “That was a huge momentum shift there in the first after getting Hamilton there on third base.”
Matt Carpenter opened the Cardinals’ home half of the first with a single under the glove of Reds third baseman Todd Frazier. Peter Bourjos then followed with his first hit of the year, and as a Cardinal, a broken-bat single to center.
“That first one, I think, just took a ton weight off his shoulders and he could then just go out there and play,” Matheny said. “You see what speed does. It drew in the infield to make the second hit good. Once you get him on base, fun things can happen.”
Matt Holliday followed Bourjos’ single with a walk that loaded the bases with no outs. After Allen Craig struck out, Yadier Molina staked the Redbirds to a 3-0 lead as he cleared the bases with a double off the leftfield wall.
“We tried to take advantage,” Molina said. “(Cingrani) gave us some walks and in that situation I was trying to hit the ball in the air to try and get one run. I was lucky enough to get it in the gap.”
Cincinnati scored its first run in the top of the fifth. With one out, the Reds had back to back doubles from Brayan Pena and pinch hitter Roger Bernadina, scoring Pena.
St. Louis (4-3) added two runs in the bottom of the seventh. With one out, Bourjos doubled over the head of Frazier and Holliday followed with a double off the right field wall, scoring Bourjos. Craig joined the hit parade when he singled allowing Holliday to score and push the Cardinals’ lead to 5-1.
“It felt good to be at home and play in front of these people,” Craig said. “To be out there and to be playing, I am just glad I could get back to my swing and drive in a run.”
The Reds (2-5) attempted to rally in the ninth. After a pair of walks to open the frame, Cardinals’ closer Trevor Rosenthal served up back to back singles to plate Jay Bruce. Pena struck out before pinch hitter Neftali Soto hit a sacrifice fly to left scoring Ryan Ludwick. Soto’s RBI was the first of his career. Billy Hamilton ended Cincinnati’s threat when he flied out to center to end the game.
“I was just getting behind hitters and not getting ahead,” Rosenthal said. “I had to make some pitches over the plate and they kind of made me pay for it.”
Early in the game, the Cardinals’ defense really picked up their pitcher. Cincinnati put its leadoff batter on base with a hit or walk in the second, third, and fourth innings, but did not score. The Redbirds turned a pair of double plays to get out of it in the second and third. St. Louis also caught another player in a rundown at third.
“I felt like I was throwing out of the stretch the whole time today,” Wacha said. “I have got to do a better job of getting that leadoff guy out. I didn’t really have any quick innings, and three up three down type innings, so there is definitely something I need to improve on with the command.”
After starting the season 0-for-12, Hamilton got his first hit of the year, a double to right field in the top of the first. He advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Brandon Phillips, but got caught in a 4-5-2-4 rundown on a Joey Votto grounder and failed to score. After a leadoff single for Cincinnati in the second, the Reds were quickly retired with a strikeout and a double play. The Cardinals turned another double play in the third that prevented a run from scoring.
“Those guys were making plays behind me,” Wacha said. “Those weren’t easy plays that they were making. Those double plays came in a couple of big situations. Those guys really kept me in the game and kept them off the scoreboard.”
Molina brought the top of the seventh to a close when he threw out Pena trying to steal second. Pena finished the day a 3-for-4 at the plate, his only out coming when the Reds needed him the most, a strike out with the bases loaded in the top of the ninth.
Wacha threw 82 pitches over six innings of work. He allowed just one run while scattering seven hits and one free pass. Wacha struck out three, as he picked up his first win of the season. As for Wacha’s counterpart, Cingrani lasted just four innings. He threw 86 pitches and allowed just three hits, but walked four. Cingrani struck out five and took the loss.
St. Louis had three hits in the first inning, but didn’t get another one until the sixth. The Cardinals finished the afternoon with nine hits and six walks, one of which was intentional. Every Cardinals starter, except the pitcher, reached base safely at least once in the game.
Bourjos and Matt Adams each had two base knocks while Carpenter and Holliday each had one hit and a pair of walks. Kolten Wong collected St. Louis first stolen base of the year in the bottom of the eighth inning following a leadoff single. Wong was stranded at second however. In all, the Cardinals left 10 runners on the bases, two each in sixth, seventh, and eight.
Game two of the three game set will get underway tonight with first pitch coming at 7:15 p.m.