Sometimes it is tough to get people to agree on anything. However, I'm pretty sure that every Cardinal fan would agree that last night's outing was a much better start of a title defense than the last time they tried it.
Kyle Lohse gets to be our inaugural Hero, and you can pick your reason. Lohse got into the eighth inning, which was a fairly impressive feat in its own right, especially on Opening Day. He allowed only one run and even that one was tainted. Plus, he got people talking about Bob Feller when he didn't allow a hit until the seventh inning.
This is Holy Week, which surprisingly doesn't have anything to do with baseball. (Though I have made the Lent/Spring Training connection before, so maybe there's something to that.) Being as such, our church invited some Messianic Jews to perform a seder meal for the congregation. While it was a fascinating experience, it did mean that I had to miss most of the game. I checked the score a couple of times and then put on Mike Shannon for the drive home.
You know how some people are leery of talking about no-hitters? I don't think you can put Shannon in that category. He mentioned something about it at least three times in the bottom of the sixth, but somehow Lohse got around that. Which meant when I got home, I had a superstitious baseball fan's dilemma--do I turn on the game?
Various things kept me from doing so immediately, so I can't be blamed for the result. When I did get to turn it on, Jose Reyes was already standing at first. Still, to put Lohse and Feller into the same sentence, however briefly, should mean good things for the Redbirds. We'll have to wait and see if Lohse can continue to pitch this well or if he was maybe a bit more excited/focused/etc. because it was the opener. If this is a general indication of how his season is going to go, it's going to be a lot of fun.
Of course, Lohse may have benefited from his surroundings as well. His GB/FB rate was 8-11, including a few that might have left some other yards. The new Marlins place has a very expansive outfield, something that may frustrate Giancarlo Stanton this season. Stanton hit a couple that might have left some parks only to find gloves here. On the positive side, that meant that we didn't have to see what happens when that garish monstrosity in center field goes off. I'm so glad that Cards only have one more trip to Miami this season!
To play off of that, Lance Berkmansaid some things about the park that I agree with. It seemed like it was more of an art gallery/social club that happened to have a baseball team in it. Are you really building loyalty to your team when you can easily go the whole game and not even know you are at a baseball stadium? I get that Miami is a different market and it's not an area or a lifestyle that I'm at all familiar with, but like Berkman says, baseball fans are universal. It's the casual fans that you are attracting with that, and once the novelty has worn off, those fans are going somewhere else, especially if the club isn't a strong one.
There were other good things out of this game as well. The Cards rapped out 13 hits and scored three quick runs off of a tough pitcher in Josh Johnson. They weren't able to add on until late, but thankfully they didn't need to. Rafael Furcal and David Freese, who both had been struggling toward the end of spring, got three hits and drove in at least one run.
The Cards also showed that this spring's emphasis on base running wasn't just a spring fling. Jon Jay got caught stealing, but Furcal was able to get the first stolen bag of the season. As Chris and I discussed last night on the UCB Radio Hour, it also seemed like they were pushing for extra bases a lot as well. And while the Cards didn't ground into five double plays like they did in their last opener, they did have two double plays that could have both been caused by the more intense base running--a lineout/double up when Yadier Molina lined to third and a strike 'em out/throw 'em out double play with Jay running. I think we'd take more of those than the 4-6-3 variety, though! If nothing else, it mixes it up a bit.
Not everything was perfect, though, and Matt Holliday gets to be the first Goat of the year with his 0-5, two strikeout performance. There always seems to be someone that has an off night when the team is clicking, which is just the nature of baseball. I was listening on the radio during Holliday's second strikeout and it sounded like he had a real issue with the umpire's strike zone. Whether it was justified or not, I don't know.
All in all, though, it was a great night. Mike Matheny got his first win and didn't have to make too many crucial decisions. It was neat that the team recognized his achievement with a dousing after the game, just another way that this club looks a lot looser than the clubs of the past. You can't ask for much more out of an opening game.
Cards are off today--one of the drawbacks of the early schedule is between days off and day games, it's tough to get into a watching rhythm as a fan--and take on the Brewers this weekend, a series we'll talk about tomorrow. Today's the opener for a lot of other teams, but right now, the Cardinals are the only undefeated team in baseball, and that's a wonderful thing!
The BBA has, as a secondary aim, the goal of producing year-end
awards in a similar fashion to the Baseball Writers of America. These
awards can be found at the official site in October with links back to the voters,
ensuring transparency and, most likely, the onset of some good baseball