Photo via MLB.com
A crisp and cloudy Opening Day on Apr. 1 at Great American Ballpark brought an opportunity for the St. Louis Cardinals.
This opportunity was not to only win the game, but to also show the league that this team was different.
The difference St. Louis was looking for, of course, was in their offense. Over their four previous Opening Day contests, St. Louis failed to run up the score and tally double-digit runs. In fact, over the team’s past 17 Opening Day games (dating back to 2004), St. Louis only scored 10 or more runs once (they beat Milwaukee, 10-1, on Apr. 11, 2016).
Now, scoring double-digit runs on Opening Day is certainly not a requirement for every team, and is definitely not one for St. Louis. Even still, the Cardinals, with their revered regular season and postseason success over the years, have only mustered together a 7-10 Opening Day record dating back to 2004. Over the same span, St. Louis, with their nine-run margin of victory against Milwaukee in 2016, averaged 4.29 runs per game during the 17-game stretch.
While not elite, it is definitely not putrid. However, it was all moot when looking at what the Cardinals did against the Cincinnati Reds to open up the 2021 campaign.
Against a capable Cincinnati ace in Luis Castillo, St. Louis had their work cut out for them, but it did not matter. Over the course of the game, St. Louis erupted for 11 runs on 10 total hits. The Cardinals did not gradually find their groove as the game wore on, either. No, they came out guns a ‘blazing right away. After an umpire review determined that Paul Goldschmidt collected a ground-rule double as opposed to a four-bagger in the first inning, the floodgates opened. The next five batters reached base, either via hit, hit by pitch or error. Just like that, St. Louis found themselves with a six-run lead with only one out.
In the first inning.
After an additional one-run second inning and a four-run fourth inning, St. Louis sat nice and pretty with 11 runs. This would be enough to hold on for the 11-6 victory. It was the first Opening Day game where St. Louis scored 11 or more runs since Mar. 31, 2003, when the team held on to beat Milwaukee, 11-9.
A statement win of this magnitude might not seem like much in the grand scheme of a 162-game season, but for St. Louis, it just might be. Their blockbuster trade to acquire Nolan Arenado certainly paid off offensively, as the star third baseman collected two hits, scored a run and drove in another. The three-hole production by Arenado, combined with their two-hole veteran phenom in Goldschmidt (who collected four hits and three runs scored with one score driven in), gave St. Louis a two-three punch that combined for six out of the 10 hits the Cardinals mustered together. To think, this was without even looking at the production surrounding the pair.
Sure, it would not have been the end of the world if St. Louis lost this game (or even won it by a closer margin). It is only one game, so knee-jerk reactions should be kept to the absolute minimum.
However, the Cardinals made the most of the opportunity. This result might just show their difference this season.