Cardinals play like champs, beat Marlins 4-1 in season opener

Thursday, April 5, 2012
Cardinals starting pitcher Kyle Lohse is congratulated by catcher Yadier Molina before being relieved during the eighth inning Wednesday in Miami. Lohse held the Marlins to two hits over 7 1/3 innings in St. Louis’ season-opening 4-1 victory. (Lynne Sladky ~ Associated Press)

MIAMI -- Kyle Lohse saw all the zeros on the scoreboard. St. Louis teammate David Freese was counting the outs to go. And in the seventh inning, the Miami Marlins knew they still didn't have a hit in their new ballpark.

Lohse finally gave up a single to start the seventh, but he combined with three relievers on a four-hitter and helped the World Series champions open the season with a 4-1 victory Wednesday night.

Lohse led the Cardinals in victories and ERA last year, but he only got the call for opening day because ace Chris Carpenter is sidelined with nerve irritation that has caused weakness in his pitching shoulder.

"Where's Carpenter?" Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said with a laugh. "Lohse threw a tremendous game. He kept our hitters off balance."

With the retractable roof open, the ball didn't seem to carry well in Miami's new home. Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton hit two flies to the warning track, but their new animated home-run sculpture never budged.

Water shoots out of a home-run sculpture in center field before the Opening Day baseball game between the Miami Marlins and the St. Louis Cardinals, Wednesday, April 4, 2012, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

"I took advantage of the park a little bit," Lohse said. "It's a good ballpark for a pitcher, obviously. It's pretty hard to get it out."

It was the fourth inning before the Marlins even managed a base runner. By the time they scored in the eighth, they trailed 4-0.

Lohse was mindful he had a no-hitter going.

"It actually did cross my mind after five," he said. "I looked up and saw a lot of zeros. But I'm not superstitious. I was talking to guys on the bench."

Freese was among those aware.

St. Louis Cardinals right fielder Carlos Beltran (3) watches as center fielder Jon Jay hits the wall after catching a ball hit by Miami Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton in the seventh inning of the Opening Day baseball game, Wednesday, April 4, 2012, in Miami. The Cardinals defeated the Marlins 4-1. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

"I was getting the feeling. I was counting the outs," Freese said. "But Kyle will take the outing every day of the week, and so will we."

The crowd of 36,601 included newly retired Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, who quietly rooted for his former team from the press box.

He watched Lohse retire the first 10 batters before hitting Emilio Bonifacio with a pitch. The runner was erased when Hanley Ramirez grounded into a double play.

Newcomer Jose Reyes' leadoff single in the seventh was Miami's first hit.

"Opening day, they throw a no-hitter, that's not going to look too good," Reyes said. "We played with a lot of energy but didn't get what we were looking for, and that was a win."

The Cardinals’ David Freese runs into home plate umpire Ed Rapuano while scoring during the eighth inning.

Omar Infante scored the Marlins' run in the eighth on John Buck's double. Lohse went 7 1/3 innings, allowing only two hits and one run.

Freese, the World Series MVP, had a two-run single in the first inning to give Lohse the cushion he needed. Freese and Rafael Furcal each had three of the Cardinals' 13 hits.

"Packed house. We win. Cool," Freese said. "It doesn't get much better."

Jason Motte earned the save with a one-hit ninth, completing the four-hitter. The Cardinals then gave rookie manager Mike Matheny a water shower to celebrate his first win.

"It means a lot to them, so that means a lot to me," Matheny said.

Things were so bad for Guillen's team that Marlins ace Josh Johnson recorded the ballpark's first strikeout -- but as a hitter. Johnson allowed 10 hits and three runs in six innings.

Both teams began the season with a new look. The Marlins, anticipating better attendance and higher revenue in their new home, acquired three All-Stars in an offseason spending spree. The Cardinals, coming off a thrilling late-season charge to the World Series title, lost slugger Albert Pujols to free agency and La Russa to retirement.

La Russa visited with Matheny before the game. Also on hand was baseball commissioner Bud Selig, who said his reaction to the ballpark was, "Wow."


* The Marlins drew 41,237 for last year's home opener, then went on to finish last in the NL in attendance for the seventh consecutive year. .

* The only no-hitter on opening day was thrown in 1940 by Hall of Famer Bob Feller for the Cleveland Indians against the Chicago White Sox.

* Lohse pitched five shutout innings in his only other opening-day start, which was in 2008.

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