The 2017 season for the St. Louis Cardinals officially started on April 2nd and they beat the Chicago Cubs in dramatic fashion.
The St. Louis Cardinals began Opening Day with their annual celebrations including multiple Hall of Famers in red jackets and the famous Clydesdale horses circling the field but this year was different. This year, the Chicago Cubs were their opponent and they were coming off of a 2016 World Series Championship. The pre-game ceremony, the atmosphere, and the national audience set the tone for what ended up being a very dramatic game.
Randal Grichuk ended the dramatic game with a walk-off RBI single (would’ve surely been a multi-RBI double) in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded and two outs. He also had a two-run home run in the eighth inning to give the Redbirds a 3-0 lead.
The winning rally started with a pinch-hit double by this year’s Spring Training champion, Jose Martinez. Mike Montgomery, who closed out Game 7 of the World Series for the Cubs, left a pitch over the heart of the plate and Martinez sent it to the wall in center field and he erupted as he made it into second base.
Yadier Molina, who announced his contract extension just hours before first pitch, followed that up with the first no-pitch intentional walk in major league history. The MLB instituted this rule in the offseason in order to help speed up the pace of games. Grichuk then came to the plate with two outs and the bases loaded to finish the game and be the first of the 2017 season to be mobbed by his teammates.
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What will hopefully not go unappreciated or unnoticed is Carlos Martinez‘s fantastic performance. Martinez was named Opening Day starter earlier this week over veteran Adam Wainwright and he did not disappoint. Martinez ended up pitching 7.1 innings with zero walks and ten strikeouts, including three against the 2016 National League MVP, Kris Bryant.
His fastball was nearly unhittable and seemed to sit at 99 mph all night. Martinez also flashed his change-up and slider to leave many of the Cubs’ sluggers off-balance and uncomfortable. At one point, Martinez retired 12 straight and 18 of 19 batters faced.
However, in the 8th inning, his pitch count reached the triple digits and Seung-hwan Oh was called upon to get a five out save. Oh escaped the eighth inning but fell into trouble in the ninth after hitting Ben Zobrist and giving up a base hit to Jason Heyward. Willson Contreras then came to bat and provided the Cubs with some ninth inning life after sending a drive over the left field wall to tie the game 3-3. Unfortunately, this robbed Martinez of his first win of the season.
Luckily for the St. Louis Cardinals, they also had some ninth inning magic and they escaped Opening Day with a victory. Grichuk and Martinez shined in the first game of the 2017 season and set the tone for the remainder of the series against the Chicago Cubs. Wainwright will be making his first start of the season on April 4th against Jake Arrieta and will be looking to follow Martinez’s lead for a change.