When the schedule was announced and the defending World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals were set to open their season as the opposing team against the Miami Marlins to open their new ballpark, no one would have guessed that Kyle Lohse was going to be on the mound for the Redbirds. Once Chris Carpenter went down and the timing only afforded putting Lohse on the mound, no one would have thought that he would carry a no-hitter into the seventh inning. Both transpired last night as Lohse baffled the Marlins and the Cardinals rapped out 13 hits en route to a 4-1 win over the Marlins.
Josh Johnson, making his first start since June 2011, is the unquestioned ace of the Marlins staff. He had a productive Spring Training. Last night, the game got a little ahead of him especially in the first inning. Whether it was jitters or just being on the mound for the first time when the game was significant, it remains uncertain, but Johnson couldn’t get an out when he needed it. With one out in the first, Carlos Beltran became the first trivia answer collecting the first hit in Marlins Park history. Matt Holliday, who ended the game 0-for-5, flew out to Giancarlo Stanton. But with two down Johnson allowed a double to Lance Berkman (first extra base hit in Marlins Park) and David Freese followed with a line single to left (Beltran first run scored in Marlins Park, first RBIs for Freese). After one-inning the only designations for the Marlins were negative ones on Johnson; first hit allowed, first extra base hit allowed, first runs allowed.
Kyle Lohse ruins Marlins home opener (Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE)
Lohse in the meantime came out and threw a 13-pitch first inning. The Marlins didn’t have time look around and finally see people in the stands. Johnson took the mound and stabbed a Jon Jay liner for the first out. Daniel Descalso, starting at second base and batting eighth, walked. Lohse dropped down a sacrifice bunt moving Descalso over to second. With two-outs, Johnson again couldn’t close the inning. He allowed a single to Rafael Furcal making the score 3-0.
Johnson would settle down from there and made it through six full innings. He threw 91 pitches on the night allowing a total of 3 ER, 10 hits, 2 BB and 4 K.
Lohse was at the other end of the spectrum. He was working the zone and kept the Marlins hitters off balance the entire night. He was working at a good pace and didn’t seem the least bit nervous under the Opening Day stage. At the end of six innings he was sitting at 70 pitches and still had the no-hitter intact. But, in the bottom of the seventh, Jose Reyes broke up the no-hitter with a lead-off single for the first Marlins hit in the new ballpark. Lohse quickly retired the next three batters. Only Stanton was able to put a little scare into Lohse with a deep drive to the gap in right, but Cardinals’ center fielder Jay made very nice running grab at the wall. Marlins Ballpark is cavernous and that will be one of many balls Stanton will see grabbed or drop for a double instead of leaving the park.
The Cardinals tacked on a run in the eighth. A lead-off single from Freese, his third hit of the night followed by a Yadier Molina double put runners in scoring position with no one out. Jay grounded back to the pitcher, Randy Choate, who then got another grounder from Descalso. This time the ground out brought in Freese to give the Redbirds a 4-0 lead.
Lohse came back out for the bottom of the eighth and gave up a single to Logan Morrison. Lohse struck out Gaby Sanchez and then manager Mike Matheny came out for his first pitching change of his career. He brought in set-up man Fernando Salas. Morrison was out on a fielder’s choice from Omar Infante. Infante was clearly out on the replay at first; the first blown call by an ump at Marlins Park (Angel Hernandez gets the honor). With two-outs, Marlins’ catcher John Buck roped a double to center bringing Infante all the way around the bases to score. Matheny came back out to replace Salas with Marc Rzepczynski as Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen had officially announced Greg Dobbs as a pinch-hitter. Guillen immediately replaced Dobbs with Austin Kearns once Rzepczynski was brought in. The first chess match in Marlins Park history. No matter, Rzepczynski, struck Kearns out swinging to end the threat. Lohse’s final line; 7.1 IP, 1 ER, 2 H, 0 BB, 3 K.
In the bottom of the ninth, Jason Motte came in for his first save opportunity as the official Cardinals’ closer. He gave up a single to Reyes. Emilio Bonifacio grounded into a force play. Motte, then set down Hanley Ramirez and Stanton on strikeouts, both swinging. Motte hit 99 mph on the gun during Stanton’s at-bat and also threw a wicked 93 mph slider.
In all, it was a team victory. The Cardinals received excellent starting pitching, solid relief and timely hitting. Put a notch in the win column for the defending champions and congratulations to Matheny on his first major league victory. The Cardinals will be in Milwaukee tomorrow to face the Brewers where they will try to spoil another home opener.
- Berkman was intentionally walked twice in order to face Freese.
- Muhammad Ali handed the first pitch off to Hanley Ramirez in the best of the Opening Day festivities the Marlins put on.
- The fans grew impatient with the Marlins toward the end of the game and began emptying the seats by the seventh inning.
NY TWO CENTS
I was on the UCB Radio Hour last night with Daniel Shoptaw of C70 at the Bat and we discussed Mike Matheny‘s demeanor. Daniel asked me how I thought Matheny looked at the helm. To me, Matheny seemed completely at ease. He looked composed and this is going to be his strength. Now there was not much for Matheny to get excitable over. His starter was on cruise control and the team opened a lead within the first 10 minutes of the game. The blown call at first in the seventh was his first opportunity to go out on the field. He simply inquired with Hernandez after he saw Berkman walk back to first shaking his head about the call. Matheny may not have argued the call, but once he saw Berkman’s disgust he went out to check with Hernandez. He’s got his player’s back and they know this. Matheny has garnered a lot of respect early on and it will grow with these subtle moves. This is a new era in Cardinals baseball, one of calm and a clubhouse a little less on its toes. Matheny has his first victory on the field, but had won over his players long before.