There is a lot for St. Louis Cardinals fans to be excited about now that we are three hours into the season.
Opening day, along with a small rodent in Pennsylvania, is one of our favorite spring predictive methods.
These first few days of the young, already brazen, MLB season remind us of the joyously grueling 162 game journey we have just set out on. The familiar sights, smells, and naïve expectations of baseball are wafting across the country.
The Cardinals look real good, and via the transitive property, are now the world champions.
Carlos Martinez took the hill for his first opening day start. Before throwing the first pitch he carved the numbers of his late friends Oscar Tavares and Yordano Ventura in remembrance.
He would go on to throw an absolute gem, his 100 MPH heater pushing the radar gun to “Rookie of the Year” limits. Martinez finished with 7 shutout innings, 10Ks, and 0 hall-passes to first base. The Cubs had no answer for his deadly combinations of off-speed pitches and pure fire.
Tsunamy exited the game with a standing ovation, but gifted Seung-Hwan Oh with runners at first and second. His deserved, but fragile, 1-0 lead was further jeopardized when Oh pegged Kyle Schwarber (a large target, sometimes it’s unavoidable), to juice up the bases.
Martinez’s “W” in jeopardy, he was visibly distraught at the edge of the dugout. His melancholy quickly dissipated after Oh settled down and went to work, forcing consecutive flyouts by Bryant and Rizzo, keeping the donut on the scoreboard.
Of the 8 starting position players, 7 recorded hits (Jedd Gyorko the lone “Oh-fer” contrarian was replaced by Kolten Wong in 6th). The Cardinals showed a level of hustle and refusal to lose that last year was missing. In right-field, Stephen Piscotty had little to no regard for human life, tracking balls at light speed before hurtling himself into the air to make plays.
Randal Grichuk and his mammoth sized forearms played savior to the home team Sunday night. His two-run homer in the bottom of the 8th tripled the Cards lead going into the final frame, before a Chicago decided to play buzz-kill.
With one out in the top of ninth, a mistake by Carpenter at first put the tying run at the plate with men on first and second. Wilson Contreras preceded to smack a hanging Seung-Hwan Oh slider over the center field fence.
Why would Mike Matheny leave Oh on the mound to throw 30 pitches in Game 1? Not entirely sure; perhaps he’s just taking a page out of Grady Little’s pitching strategy handbook.
In an early blessing from the baseball gods, Cubs reliever Mike Montgomery became physically incapable of locating the strike-zone in the bottom of the ninth (granted, one walk was intentional). The bases loaded once more, Grichuk got in front of a waist-high inside fastball before sending it deep towards the fence.
In a 1990s Kevin Bacon movie, it would have been a grand-slam, but unfortunately the ball landed just short of the fence leaving Grichuk with a mere walk-off single.
Regardless, Grichuk’s clutch, barrel-filled performance indicates the young slugger is becoming more and more comfortable with the major league level, and as he gains confidence swinging freely, opposing pitchers are going to have a very bad time.
This team has some serious pop and an infectious energy. The selfless team effort last night most importantly shut the city of Chicago up for a precious few hours. If the Birds can remain consistent and off the DL, they could make the rest of the NL pretty nervous.