A new season starts with old traditions in St. Louis on Thursday night.
The Clydesdales making their usual jaunt around Busch Stadium. The parade of Cardinals players in pickup trucks. The team’s Hall of Famers all dressed in red jackets, greeting each player as they come out of their truck.
And Adam Wainwright taking the mound to throw the first pitch of another year under the Gateway Arch.
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The veteran righthander will be activated off the 10-day disabled list to start the opener of a three-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Wainwright, sidelined by a strained left hamstring, passed a battery of tests to earn the call for the team’s home opener. It is his fifth start in a home opener and first since 2015.
“I think they invented tests for me to try to pass to prove to them I was ready,” he told reporters before St. Louis beat Milwaukee 6-0 on Wednesday. “I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary to try to prove that I was ready.
“It means a lot to me. I had already in my mind gotten myself ready to pitch either tomorrow or whenever. I was just going to be ready.”
The 36-year old Wainwright is coming off perhaps the worst year of his career. Although he went 12-5, he pitched to a 5.11 earned run average, allowing 185 runners in 123 1/3 innings and missing starts down the stretch due to an injury that drastically reduced his fastball velocity.
Wainwright is at least facing an opponent against whom he’s experienced success in his career. In 14 outings, 11 of them starts, he’s 8-4 with a 2.72 ERA. In his only outing against Arizona last year, Wainwright earned a 4-3 win in late June, fanning eight over 6 1/3 innings and allowing two runs.
The Cardinals (3-3) come into town fresh off winning two of three against the Brewers, including Wednesday night’s game that saw Carlos Martinez fire 8 1/3 shutout innings and Yadier Molina crack his third homer of the year.
The Diamondbacks are off to a 5-1 start, all at home. They polished off a three-game sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers Wednesday with a 3-0 win dominated by Patrick Corbin. The lefty allowed just one hit over 7 1/3 innings, whiffing a career-high 12.
“We look at it in segments,” Arizona manager Torey Lovullo reporters. “The past three games we played good baseball. The first game trickled into the second game, and you look up and you defeated the defending National League champions three times. You have a lot to be proud of.”
To start the series and a nine-game road trip, the Diamondbacks give the ball to Robbie Ray (1-0, 10.80), who picked up a 9-8 victory Friday night against Colorado despite allowing three homers and six earned runs over five innings.
Ray is 0-2 with a 6.52 ERA in three career starts against St. Louis. His last outing in Busch Stadium just about killed him — literally. Ray was drilled in the head by a Luke Voit liner in the second inning on July 29 and needed three sutures to close the wound.
The teams will take Friday off before finishing the series with day games Saturday and Sunday. Snow could enter the equation for Sunday’s game.