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Reds @ Cardinals Recap 4/7: Cards win home opener with six innings of one-run ball from Wacha

The offense led the Cardinals today with 14 baserunners and five runs scored. The pitching survived 13 baserunners of their own. Basically, there were a lot of baserunners.

Is that not the most beautiful sight you ever laid eyes upon?
Is that not the most beautiful sight you ever laid eyes upon?
Dilip Vishwanat

This can't be happening.  The clouds are not moving, the rain is not stopping, and the breeze is not warm.  This is the type of weather meant to happen after you break up with your girlfriend, not for a baseball game.  How could the weather not see how important this day was?

No matter, nothing could ruin the greatest day of the year.  The weather is a hitter against Bob Gibson.  Some years the Cardinals lose, some years the Cardinals win.  The game is almost irrelevant to the specialness of the home opener.  Sure, a win would be nice, but there's 161 other games to win.  This is the game to see current players interact with Hall-of-Famers.  To see Lou Brock say something to Peter Bourjos - advice, admiration, thanks from Peter?  To see Bob Gibson shake hands with the young power arms who strike out more batters than he did, but will never cause as much fear.  To see Ozzie Smith jump out of his car to spring to mind his many back-flips.  To see Red Schoendienst, who cannot possibly be over 90, looking as young as ever.  To see Tony LaRussa strongly grasp Pat Neshek's hand so he won't miss the honor of meeting these legends.

The video board plays the famous Jack Buck call "Go Crazy folks, go crazy!" immediately after Ozzie Smith is announced.  Then successive National League pennant winners flash across the screen.  It's hard to describe the feeling, but the best way to describe it is in my dad's words: goosebumps.  See, my dad gets goosebumps a lot, pretty much any time he's in awe and impressed.  He would certainly have goosebumps at that moment.  I was not blessed with that particular gene, but watching that video makes me appreciate being a Cardinals fan.  How did I get so lucky to become a Cardinals fan?


The WPA will tell you that the Cardinals never went below a win expectancy of 68.5% after the 1st inning.  But there were three key moments of the game.  These three times, if the outcome went a different way, the Cardinals would have had a very good chance of losing.  Two of them came after the 1st inning, so the seemingly solid lead the Cardinals had built never really felt that comfortable.

The first key moment of the game was of course in the 1st inning with the bases loaded, one out, and Yadier Molina at the plate.  Despite starter Tony Cingrani showing questionable control - he had 11 strikes and 11 balls at the time - Molina came up swinging, quickly getting himself into an 0-2 hole.  After taking a ball, he found a pitch he could drill and cleared the bases, putting the Cardinals up 3-0.

The second key moment of the game came in the 5th inning with Brandon Phillips up, a man on third, and two outs.  On a 1-2 count, Phillips drilled the next pitch.  Luckily, the line drive went right to Kolten Wong ending the inning.  At that point, Wacha had given up two hard-hit doubles and a well-struck ground-out.  Up next was Joey Votto, and Wacha seemed to have lost his touch at that point.  If that line drive goes for a hit instead of an out, it's a 3-2 game, and the Reds two best hitters are coming to the plate.

The last key moment came in the 9th, with the bases loaded, nobody out, and Brayan Pena at the plate against Trevor Rosenthal.  Rosenthal was uncharacteristically wild in the 9th walking two batters and then allowing two straight singles.  Pena was 3-3 with three lasers posing as hits.  The score was 5-2.  Pena struck out, bringing up Neftali Soto and then Billy Hamilton, two below average hitters.  Pena's at-bat goes a different way and Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto are coming to the plate possibly.

Wacha was ok.  He allowed a leadoff runner on in the first four innings, managing to escape through three strikeouts and two double play balls.  It was at this point, that he seemed to fall apart a little.  After getting Zack Cozart out - who at that point had yet to even get on base this year - he allowed two line drive doubles to Pena and Roger Bernadina.  The aforementioned Phillips line drive out saved him from more runs.  In the 6th, he escaped despite allowing two more line drives - one a hit, the other a great defensive play by Wong who was well into RF due to a shift.  Wacha ended the night with only 82 pitches, but it's hard to argue he should have stayed in.

Speaking of which, this might have been Mike Matheny's best managed game all year.  Despite a relatively low pitch count, he pinch-hit for Wacha with two on, two-out in the 6th.  Even though it didn't result in runs, it was undoubtedly the correct decision.  Wacha had seemingly lost it, and a run opportunity had presented itself.  He also pitched Carlos Martinez for more than one inning when he was cruising.  And I can't complain about putting in Trevor Rosenthal, as he appeared to come in because it was the home opener (which in a theoretical world, I would have also done.)  The only "En serio, Matheny?" happened before the game when he put Peter Bourjos 2nd in the lineup.

It's difficult to pick a Cardinals MVP, because Wacha was mediocre and the offense was so spread out.  Five hitters got on base twice or more, and that doesn't include Molina, who had the vital 3 RBI double.  Matt Carpenter walked twice and set the tone for the game with a 6-pitch single in the 1st.  Bourjos went 2-5 with two runs scored.  Matt Holliday walked twice and doubled in the very important 4th run.

Aaron highlighted four things to watch for in this series against the Reds.  Unfortunately, two of them are currently on the DL and were obviously a non-factor for the game.  Cingrani, who is somewhat of an X factor for them, pitched wildly with four walks.  But being Cingrani, that also came with five strikeouts.  And Hamilton looked MUCH better than he did previously, although that still resulted in a 1-5 day and a .200 OBP.  Dude's probably going to have to walk, which he seems to have little interest in doing.

Tomorrow, we get a rematch of Lance Lynn and Homer Bailey.  Both struggled, but Lynn was the victor.  Hopefully, there is a similar result but with less home runs for Lynn.  (Bailey keeping his 100 HR/FB% is fine by me on the other hand)