The Cardinals kicked off their season with an opener against the Pirates in a game rife with nostalgia. After all, in one day it featured the return of Albert Pujols as well as his reunion with the other two remaining members of both the ‘06 and ‘11 championship teams in Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina (though Wainwright obviously wasn’t on the active ‘11 roster due to Tommy John surgery). With Jack Flaherty beginning the season on the IL, Cardinals fans were welcomed with the familiar sight of the Wainwright-Molina battery, with a little Pujols sprinkled into the lineup at the DH position. Wainwright (3.05 ERA, 3.66 FIP in 2021) faced off against Pirates starter J.T. Brubaker who posted a 5.36 ERA and 5.16 FIP in 2021. Tyler O’Neill slugged his way to five RBI in the game, while six strong innings from Wainwright (highlights below) and homers from Tommy Edman and Nolan Arenado contributed to the 9-0 blowout.
Daniel Vogelbach started the season off with a groundout to Paul DeJong, who almost pulled Paul Goldschmidt off the bag but kept his throw just close enough to get the out. Bryan Reynolds struck out, failing to check a swing that went under a 3-2 cutter. Ke’Bryan Hayes then chased a 2-2 fastball at shoulder level to close the top half of the inning.
Dylan Carlson took the first at-bat for the Cards in 2022 and doubled on a circus popup that blew back into fair territory in short left field and fell just beyond Hayes’ glove. Goldschmidt drew a five-pitch walk on a slider that missed low. Tyler O’Neill gave the Redbirds their first lead, lacing a slider back over Brubaker’s head and off of Hoy Park’s glove to score Carlson, making it 1-0 and moving Goldschmidt to second.
After the play, the Pirates’ medical staff came out to check on Ke’Bryan Hayes, who was suffering forearm spasms after Carlson’s popup. He was removed from the game in favor of rookie Diego Castillo. Nolan Arenado struck out swinging over a 1-2 slider that dove low and away in the zone for the first out. Albert Pujols, after the expected standing ovation, got under a 1-1 sinker and skied it into left for out number two. DeJong fell behind 1-2 in the count before working back to draw a two-out walk and load the bases. Yadier Molina jumped on a first-pitch slider, topping it for a swinging bunt back to Brubaker that stranded the bases loaded.
Yoshi Tsutsugo drilled a 1-2 curveball but hit it in the general direction of Harrison Bader who charged it and robbed the hit with a diving catch.
Kevin Newman hit a line drive of his own to center that found grass for a one-out hit. The Pirates sent Newman on the 3-2 pitch to Cole Tucker, who struck out as Yadi gunned down Newman at second for an inning-ending double play.
Bader led off the bottom of the inning with an infield single after beating out a good barehanded play by Newman at short. Tommy Edman grounded out softly to second, moving Bader to second with one away. Carlson swung through a good sinker on the inside edge of the zone for a strikeout. Goldschmidt drew his second walk in as many innings, putting two on for O’Neill who turned on an inside sinker and put it into the left field seats to stretch the Redbirds’ lead to 4-0. Arenado put a good swing on another sinker, but got under it and left it on the warning track for the last out.
Gamel opened the third with a strikeout, frozen by an 89-MPH fastball left in the middle of the zone. Roberto Perez notched a single into left field. Park topped a possible double play ball to Wainwright, who threw to second for one out. There was confusion between Arenado and DeJong about who was supposed to cover second in the shift on the play, and a throw to first was prevented by both defenders having a foot on second. Park advanced to second on a wild pitch that Yadi tried to pick, but was left there after Vogelbach struck out staring at a fastball low and away.
Pujols hit a grounder that took a bad hop at Newman, who booted the play and allowed Pujols to reach first on the error. DeJong flew a slider out to Gamel for out number one. Yadi went after another first-pitch slider and flew out to center. Bader grounded a slider to third, ending the frame.
Reynolds laced a single to right to lead off the fourth. Castillo struck out chasing a curveball in the dirt. Tsutsugo rolled a cutter through the infield the other way against the shift, putting runners at the corner with one out. Newman then scorched a one-hopper to DeJong, who kicked off the 6-4-3 double play to end the Pirates’ threat.
Wil Crowe relieved Brubaker and struck out Edman looking at a fastball. Carlson went down swinging out ahead of a well-placed changeup at the knees. Goldschmidt was content to be given first base yet again and drew another walk. O’Neill was fooled by a changeup that dropped to the bottom of the zone, sending the game to the fifth.
Tucker chopped out to Arenado for the first out of the fifth. Gamel smoked a sinker at Bader for out number two. Perez grounded a curveball back at Wainwright, who threw to first to close out an eight-pitch inning.
Arenado started the sixth by drawing a six-pitch walk. Pujols hit a sinker back to Crowe who knocked it down before throwing wide of second, leaving both runners safe on the throwing error. DeJong topped a slider to short for a fielder’s choice, leaving runners at first and third with one out. Yadi then grounded into a 6-4-3 double play, ending the inning.
Park tapped a cutter down the third baseline away from the shift for an infield hit. Vogelbach flew out to center on a 2-1 curveball and Reynolds did the same. Castillo rolled a four-seamer to Edman for another scoreless inning from Wainwright.
Duane Underwood, Jr. replaced Crowe and surrendered a leadoff double to Bader. Underwood, Jr. then threw three pitches to Edman before being lifted for some leg discomfort. Heath Hembree replaced him and retired Edman on a groundout that moved Bader to third. Carlson lifted a slider to center, scoring Bader on a sac fly to make it 5-0.
Goldschmidt walked on five pitches, only one of which was remotely competitive, and stole second without a throw on the second pitch to O’Neill, who also walked. Arenado squared up a first-pitch fastball but hit it straight at Gamel for the final out.
Nick Wittgren came in for Wainwright and gave up a single to Tsutsugo on a ground ball into left field. Newman followed with a soft flyout to Edman in shallow right. Tucker rolled a cutter to Edman, who started a 4-6-3 double play as the Pirates continued to struggle to get any offense going.
Chris Stratton came in to face Pujols and got him to fly out on a slider away. DeJong golfed at a low curveball and popped out to first. Yadi also popped out, this time to second to close out a quick seventh inning.
Genesis Cabrera came in to pitch the eighth and issued back-to-back walks to Gamel and Perez. Park then struck out on three pitches and Michael Chavis, pinch-hitting for Vogelbach, flew out to center. Cabrera then struck out Reynolds to escape the self-induced jam.
Bader led off against new pitcher Aaron Fletcher and lined out softly to first. Edman tattooed a high sinker that snuck over the wall in left for a solo shot that was confirmed NFL-style after a review, extending the lead to 6-0.
Carlson got caught on the foot by an errant slider, bringing up Goldschmidt who laced a base hit back up the middle and moved Carlson to third. O’Neill flew a changeup to right, scoring Carlson for his fifth RBI of the game to make it 7-0.
Arenado got a meatball of a sinker and didn’t miss it, scorching it off the hands of a fan in the left field seats and piling on two more runs for a 9-0 lead. Pujols did his best to get in on the offensive action but lined out on a hard-hit changeup.
Ryan Helsley got the call to secure the win and retired Castillo on a groundout to Arenado. Josh VanMeter pinch hit for Tsutsugo and struck out on a curveball that hung up in the zone. Newman tapped a low cutter back to Helsley, who threw to first to secure the 9-0 shutout.
The Cardinals have an off day on Friday before returning to action against the Pirates on Saturday at 1:15 PM CT. Miles Mikolas is scheduled to face off against Mitch Keller.
For those that missed it and want to watch, below is the Opening Day introductions for Wainwright, Pujols, and Molina.
Additionally, congratulations are in order for Oli Marmol, who notched his first big league win as a manager. Some of his postgame statements can be found in the following video.
Final Pitching Lines
Wainwright (W, 1-0): 6 IP / 5 H / 0 R / 0 ER / 0 BB / 6 SO / 0 HR
Wittgren: 1 IP / 0 H / 0 R / 0 ER / 0 BB / 0 SO / 0 HR
Cabrera: 1 IP / 0 H / 0 R / 0 ER / 2 BB / 2 SO / 0 HR
Helsley: 1 IP / 0 H / 0 R / 0 ER / 0 BB / 1 SO / 0 HR
Brubaker (L, 0-1): 3 IP / 4 H / 4 R / 4 ER / 3 BB / 2 SO / 1 HR
Crowe: 2 IP / 0 H / 0 R / 0 ER / 2 BB / 3 SO / 0 HR
Underwood, Jr.: 0 IP / 1 H / 1 R / 1 ER / 0 BB / 0 SO / 0 HR
Hembree: 1 IP / 0 H / 0 R / 0 ER / 2 BB / 0 SO / 0 HR
Stratton: 1 IP / 0 H / 0 R / 0 ER / 0 BB / 0 SO / 0 HR
Fletcher: 1 IP / 3 H / 4 R / 4 ER / 0 BB / 0 SO / 2 HR