Wacha pitches Cardinals past Reds in chilly home opener
ST. LOUIS — Home opener hoopla was no distraction at all for Michael Wacha. Neither was the 49-degree chill for the first pitch.
The 22-year-old rookie was definitely excited about the occasion and the opportunity. Just like last fall when he was the breakout pitching star of the postseason, he fed off the atmosphere.
”Huge crowd out there, a lot of energy,” Wacha said after the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Cincinnati Reds 5-3 on Monday. ”It’s a lot of fun pitching in front of your home crowd, 40,000-plus fans.
”I don’t know who wouldn’t thrive off those kind of situations.”
Wacha outdid Tony Cingrani in a rematch of young power arms, and the Cardinals got a three-run double from Yadier Molina in the first inning.
”I didn’t have my fastball, so what are you going to do? I just tried to battle,” Cingrani said. ”One bad pitch and it cleared the bases.”
A standing-room crowd of 47,492, the largest at 9-year-old Busch Stadium, braved daylong rain to greet the National League champions and take a look at the new Ballpark Village. Hundreds milled about the attached complex, which features five sports bars and rooftop seating.
The Cardinals bunched three hits and a walk over the first five hitters to take the early lead against Cingrani (0-1), who allowed two hits in seven scoreless innings against the Cardinals six days earlier in Cincinnati.
The Cards went 1 for 18 before adding RBIs from Matt Holliday and Allen Craig off Trevor Bell in a two-run seventh.
St. Louis ended a three-game losing streak on opening day, including a blowout loss to the Reds last year.
Wacha (1-0) hadn’t allowed a run in 21 career innings against the Reds before back-to-back doubles by Brayan Pena and pinch-hitter Roger Bernadina in the fifth cut the Cardinals’ lead to 3-1.
The NL championship series MVP benefited from two double-play balls in six stingy innings and has permitted one run in 13 2/3 innings his first two starts.
Wacha threw 82 pitches before getting lifted for a pinch hitter with the Cardinals up by two runs and two on in the sixth. St. Louis manager Mike Matheny wanted to take a shot at putting the Reds away, but thought the right-hander had plenty left.
”That was more of a situation of what’s best for the day, what’s best for that particular game,” Matheny said.
Cingrani needed 31 pitches to get through the first and lasted four innings, striking out five but walking four. Matheny said before the game that his hitters had been a ”click off” with timing against the 24-year-old lefty last week and should benefit from another chance so soon.
Pena said he wasn’t trying to make excuses but thought Cingrani was bothered by the elements.
”The baseball was slippery. He couldn’t grab his breaking ball the way he wanted,” Pena said.
Peter Bourjos moved up to second in the order and got his first two hits of the season after an 0-for-13 start. Craig got his third hit and third RBI of the season after entering 2 for 22.
Seeing Wacha once again didn’t do the Reds any good. They’ve totaled 18 runs in seven games.
”Right now, almost collectively, we’ve struggled to do anything with guys in scoring position,” Cincinnati manager Bryan Price said. ”But that’ll change. It’s tough to sit through it.”
The start of the game was delayed 12 minutes after the inclement weather combined with pregame ceremonies that featured the traditional grand entrance with players, coaches and Hall of Famers touring Busch Stadium on the back of convertibles and trucks. A team of Clydesdales was kept in the stable due to concerns the field might be damaged.
Billy Hamilton doubled to start the game and the Reds put the leadoff man on base in the first four innings but were undone by two double plays.
Zack Cozart broke an 0-for-22 slump to start the season with a bloop RBI single, and pinch-hitter Neftali Soto had a sacrifice fly for his first career RBI in the ninth against St. Louis closer Trevor Rosenthal, who gave up his first runs at home since Aug. 15 against Pittsburgh.
The Cardinals opened the first with singles by Matt Carpenter and Bourjos, and Holliday walked to load the bases with none out. Craig struck out before Molina cleared the bases with a drive to left-center on a 1-2 pitch.
NOTES: Lance Lynn (1-0, 5.40 ERA) opposes Homer Bailey (0-1, 8.31) in the second game of the series, another rematch from the season-opening series in Cincinnati. Lynn allowed three runs in five innings and Bailey gave up four runs in 4 1-3 innings in St. Louis’ 7-6 win. … The Reds anticipate activating reliever Jonathan Broxton (forearm) from the 15-day disabled list Tuesday. The team held off making the move Monday to give Broxton two days off after pitching on consecutive days.