Noise, not nerves, Oliver Marmol woke up at 7:20 a.m. Thursday, hours before his first line-up was written and made his first home run to deliver it before his first game as a Major League coach.
The racket was coming from the bedroom window of his St. Louis residence, and when he opened the blinds, this was the mystery to be explored, he found the offender pecking, pecking.
Marmol recognized the feathered friend by his shirt.
A cardinal came calling.
No one looking for signs of success or reading much of what was outside their window, Marmol could do on Thursday night with what he saw inside the box result.
The Cardinals opened their 131st season in the National League – Marmol’s first as coach – with a 9-0 at Busch Stadium against Pittsburgh. Adam Wainwright netted his 100th career win in midtown with six innings without a hitch. Paul Goldschmidt set a club record with four walks on opening day. Five RBIs for Tyler O’Neill tied a club record on the opening day last game in 1928. The Cardinals scored on fly-sacrifice, scored from second place in one game, and hit three runs, one from hitter No. 9 Tommy Edman.
Everywhere Marmol looked there was rap and rap performed by the cardinal hitter.
“This was a perfect demonstration of what they can do,” Marmol said.
“We’re an offensive force, and that’s what we want to be,” said O’Neill, who led the Cardinals’ first four rounds of the season, three times with Homer in the second half. “We have a lot of depth, from one to nine, and everyone is dangerous. There is nowhere for me to go in this squad.”
O’Neill had the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in three of the four congregations of cardinals. After bidding for starters at Pirates JT Brubaker by seven strokes in the first half, the Cardinals pounced with three-stroke Homer O’Neill in the second half. He added a sacrifice between my fellow Adman and Nolan Arenado as the Cardinals expanded their lead over the pirates rudderlessly. O’Neill has toured his home ground on three consecutive opening days, raising the question of whether this is his favorite day on the calendar.
“Yes, it may be,” he said.
It looks like St. Louis.
For the first time since April 2019, the Cardinal welcomed a full sale on opening day and greeted a selling crowd of 46,256 with the usual show of players on trucks, a display of World Championship awards, and 16 Cardinals Hall of Famers in red coats. Three others who would wear those overcoats went down to the square. A pre-match video, narrated by son-favorite Jon Hamm, celebrates Yadier Molina and the return of the great Albert Pujols – both of whom have said they intend to retire at the end of the season. The Cardinals had 50 members of the military present the 50th American Flag Wainwright on the hill. The ovation abounded as the fans greeted the Cardinals with applause and applause.
Today the club was drenched in nostalgia, but when the match started, it became an affirmation of recent history. Success does not age.
Wainwright picked where he left off.
O’Neill continued his run.
“It felt like an old-school bush stadium,” Wainwright said. “The fans are back. Felt like a real baseball game. The fans showed up and were swaying.”
Wainwright retired the Buccaneers in the first inning, raising one of his fastest pitches at 90 mph, hitting Ke’Bryan Hayes and ending the inning. He got nine out of the first ten hits he encountered, hitting five of them. The second half ended the way many began during Molina and Wainwright’s 305 together as a battery: the batter hit, and Molina threw a runner in an attempt to steal. Pittsburgh didn’t even bother asking the governors to review the replay.
Wainwright (1-0) extended his goal-free streak to 32 consecutive rounds against the Buccaneers. The Cardinals’ offense didn’t need to do much to secure Marmol’s first win.
Throughout spring training, Arenado was with his teammates to create a “tougher lineup” because the teams performing at a higher level all had the toughest lineup. The phrase he repeated as the goal of the squad: “No room to breathe.”
“We talked about not being one pony and selling it for[home training]and being able to do different things,” Marmol said. “We want to be very stubborn about not leaving the (hit) zone, and when they come into the zone to scare them back into it. … ‘There’s no breathing room.’
This will not prevent the opponent from trying.
The Buccaneers, whose shallow-throwing weakened further after Brubaker’s start with three runs and Duane Underwood Jr.’s injury after a one-hit encounter, hinted at where they would target opponents in the Cardinal’s lineup. With MVP Goldschmidt hitting second bats and brand-name Arenado and Pujols cleaning up and No. 5, it was clear that the island the pirates spied to loot for outs was O’Neill. After playing fresh-from-hit .500 in spring training and sporting a 1,000 OPS in the second half of last season, Goldschmidt walked four times in his four-board debut. He avoided Pittsburgh around – and defied O’Neill. Other teams will do the same.
“I hope so,” Marmol said. “That would be nice. I hope they try to follow him because that will be a fun year.”
In the first inning, O’Neill stings a 2-2 slider for an RBI single. In the second half he got the same diver he had lost earlier in the match, well, he didn’t. He dug the field 0-1 396 feet into the left field benches to bring home three runs, including the first Goldschmidt. On the eighth day, Goldschmidt wrapped up his day with one chance to make it to base in all five appearances of the board, and after O’Neill’s fly for sacrifice, Goldschmidt scored a goal on the Homer Arenado.
At the club after the game, Wainwright told Goldschmidt, “If he walked four times the rest of the season in every game, Tyler would have 300 RBIs.”
Reading too much into the first game, Goldschmidt cautioned that focusing on results on opening day can be cornering and loving. However, hours before Marmol made one of his first bold predictions as a manager. The squad with the second fewest home runs in 2021 will be the unexpected strength of the 2022 Cardinals. He said the offense is not “up front” when fans discuss the Cardinals, but once the team raises the curtains on opening day, the fans see it.
Perhaps opponents will catch a nap, a nap.
Until the cardinal wakes them up.
“I think our squad is deeper than we get a lot of credit for,” said Arenado. “We weren’t great last year. I can see why we didn’t get that respect. We have to go out and prove it. That was a good start.”
In pictures: St. Louis Cardinals crush the Pittsburgh Pirates 9-0 in their opening home game in 2022
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