Mike Matheny poses for the cover of his new adult-contemporary album, "Stealing Home."
All right, this is it: This is the last time in 2012 I'm allowing Major League Baseball to use the word "Opening" or "Opener" to describe a baseball game. Today is the St. Louis Cardinals' home opener, or Busch Stadium's Opening Day, maybe, but then I'm done with Opening Month.
I need to make a quick exit this morning, that I may actually watch the game later, so let's get directly to the exercise portion of this morning thread: The identity of the Cardinals' last 10 home openers' heroes and/or goats.
2011: Cardinals lose 5-3 vs. San Diego Padres. It's difficult to choose between Ryan Franklin, who blew the save for Chris Carpenter when Cameron Maybin homered deep to center field, or Opening Day Hipster Bryan Augenstein, who lost the game on three consecutive base hits in the 11th, but I'm not sure it matters—together they combined to allow 32 earned runs in 33 innings.
Consider this a rare situation in which early problems could be profitably overreacted about, although there is the matter of that postseason tournament they won later.
Consider this one of those situations in which Adam Wainwright pitched very well and then continued to pitch very well.
2009: Cardinals lose 6-4 vs. Pittsburgh Pirates. This, of course, is the Jason Motte Game, which means this particular Opening Day loss is also indirectly responsible for 2011's. Lost in the glow of that awful inning is this spectacular batting order:
- Brendan Ryan (2B)
- Rick Ankiel (CF)
- Albert Pujols (1B)
- Khalil Greene (SS)
- Ryan Ludwick (RF)
- Yadier Molina (C)
- Chris Duncan (LF)
- Brian Barden (3B)
- Adam Wainwright (P)
2007: Cardinals lose 6-1 vs. New York Mets. I guess I'd managed to forget just how terrible all these home openers were. The Cardinals' 10 hits, including an Adam Kennedy triple, failed to quite chase Tom Glavine. Also, official goat Chris Carpenter looked awful and missed most of the next two seasons with career-threatening arm problems, which wasn't great.
2006: Cardinals win 6-4 vs. Milwaukee Brewers. The possibility exists that Baseball-Reference has made this game up to screw with me, because I have repressed any memory of Mark Mulder hitting a home run and a double, drawing a walk, and then going eight innings to pick up the win. In fact, I don't have any memories of Mark Mulder from 2006 that don't involve him throwing an 80 mile-an-hour fastball and then sobbing quietly on the mound until his shoulder falls back into joint, so that he can do it again. (The odd thing is that I'm almost certain I attended this game.)
Over his first two starts Mulder allowed five earned runs in 15 innings; he allowed 69 in his last 78. He only hit .200/.304/.250 after that, too, the bum.
2005: Cardinals win 6-5 vs. Philadelphia Phillies. Mark Mulder was somewhat less sharp here, allowing four earned runs in six innings and failing to hit a single home run; the win and the heroics go to Al Reyes, who threw two scoreless in time for Aaron Fultz to walk Larry Walker and Albert Pujols with the bases loaded.
2004: Cardinals lose 8-6 vs. Milwaukee Brewers. Matt Morris, whose arm was just about finished by now, got knocked around for seven runs (five earned) in six innings to kick off what would be his worst season yet. But hey: Mike Matheny had two hits and an RBI.
2003: Cardinals win 11-9 vs. Milwaukee Brewers. In the eighth inning, down 7-5, the Cardinals got a walk from Eli Marrero, a triple from Orlando Palmeiro, a double from Fernando Vina, a single from Kerry Robinson, and a home run from Scott Rolen to put six runs on the board against Luis Vizcaino and eventual bullpen-desperation-trade-target Mike DeJean.
That makes them the heroes, except they'd already had a four-run comeback and then lost a one-run lead on a Royce Clayton double and a Scott Rolen error. Which I think makes the concept of Scott Rolen being an imperfect third baseman this game's goat.
2002: Cardinals win 10-2 vs. Colorado Rockies. Okay, okay, it was bound to happen eventually: You're probably going to have to give this one to Albert Pujols, who went 2-4 with two doubles and three RBI in the home opener way back on April 1, 2002. Of course, if it's still a little too raw for you to name him retroactive hero in his sophomore season, you're welcome to award Mike Difelice, who went 2-5 with a home run.
As for 2012, I think the safe money is on David Freese never failing to do anything heroic ever again, whereupon he's named dictator-for-life in the Cardinals' broadcast area and finally figures out that whole city-county-split thing.
But I like to go out on a limb for these things, which is why my pick for today's hero is Mike Difelice.