After a dreary forecast Thursday postponed the game and all of the events that precede it, today is the day that many Cardinals fans highlight each year as soon as the schedules are released. Today is the day that officially opens another season of baseball in the Gateway City. Friday is Opening Day at Busch Stadium.
Busch Stadium III opened its gates for the first time in 2006, and each year is started off in a signature style. The famous Budweiser Clydesdales take a lap around the track before Cardinals Hall of Famers and current stars make the same circle. Red, white, and blue banners flutter from many levels in various areas of the ballpark, while fans munch on those one-of-a-kind snacks they have been craving since last fall. Opening Day is special throughout the league for reasons that are unique to each city, but it’s tough to compare to the way it feels in St. Louis each and every year.
The 2019 season in St. Louis will open with a hunger, an urge for more beyond a 162-game slate. The last year the Cardinals played in the postseason was 2015, and they do not want that streak to grow past three seasons. That is the beauty of Opening Day; players (and fans) are refreshed, and a hope is alive that this is ‘the’ year.
The Padres are in town to play in the home opener, the second year in a row where a team from the National League West helps ring in the new year. Last season, Adam Wainwright toed the rubber against the Arizona Diamondbacks in a 3-1 loss for the Cardinals. St. Louis mustered just two hits: a base hit from Marcell Ozuna, at the time a new Cardinal, and a Yadier Molina RBI double in the fourth inning.
The home opener of the 2017 season was an NL Central face-off on a Sunday night, after the AL East (Yankees and Rays) and NL West (Diamondbacks and Giants) were represented earlier in the afternoon. It was the Cubs and Cardinals at Busch Stadium in a matchup of Carlos Martinez and Jon Lester. The two traded zeroes throughout the evening, with the only blemish coming from Lester in the bottom of the third. Dexter Fowler, coming off his tenure with the Cubs and fresh on a five-year contract with the Cardinals, scored the game’s only run for several innings. Randal Grichuk put up two more in the bottom of the eighth with a two-run homer off Pedro Strop.
In the top of the ninth inning against Cardinals closer Seung-hwan Oh, who was oh-so-tough to score upon in 2016, Cubs catcher Willson Contreras launched a three-run home run to quiet the chunk of the crowd that was not wearing blue and tie the game at three. A double from Jose Martinez started the ninth, followed by walks to Molina and Kolten Wong. With two outs, Grichuk came up and lined a Mike Montgomery delivery to deep left-center field to score Martinez and give the Cardinals a 4-3 win.
The 2015 and 2016 seasons were opened against the Brewers. Wainwright started in 2015 and logged seven innings in an eventual 5-4 loss. It was a sloppy game defensively - on both sides, really. Wong had two errors at second base for the Cardinals, and shortstop Jean Segura had as many miscues for Milwaukee. It was the offense that was the problem for St. Louis, nonetheless. The Cardinals were just 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position. Jhonny Peralta had a two-run double late in the game, but the team fell just short.
Michael Wacha got the start in 2016 and had plenty of offensive support. With 19 hits (and 10 of them for extra bases) to score 10 runs, the Cardinals cruised to a win over the Brewers. Wacha fanned seven batters across six scoreless innings, but the big story from this game started in left field for the Cardinals: Jeremy Hazelbaker.
Hazelbaker cracked the Major League roster after a standout spring and made fans remember his name by going 4-for-4 with a double and a triple in the home opener. Aledmys Diaz went 3-for-5, and Stephen Piscotty had a pair of doubles. Molina was 3-for-4 and Matt Carpenter 2-for-4, and the pair each drove in two runs.
Now it’s time to add a new chapter to the book. Jack Flaherty will take the mound for the Cardinals just after 3:00 this afternoon. If you’re interested in this sort of fact, the last time the Cardinals faced the Padres in a home opener was 2011.
How did that year play out?
Video is credited to the official Major League Baseball YouTube channel.