Pickup trucks were driving around the warning track at Busch Stadium and the Cardinals of the past joined the Cardinals of the present which means it was Opening Day in St. Louis. For the Cardinals, Tyler O’Neill drove in a career-high five runs in their 9-0 win over the Pirates in the season opener.
Not a whole lot went right for the Pirates who not only were shutout, but didn’t record an extra-base hit. They went hitless in five at-bats with runners in scoring position. Defensively, they committed a pair of errors and the pitching staff issued seven free passes.
Even so, the biggest concern of the game didn’t have to do with performance, but rather a pair of injuries. The first came in the first inning Ke’Bryan Hayes was taken out of the game after the trainer was examining his left arm. Thankfully, Hayes seems to be okay. The Pirates announced that he left the game with a left forearm spasm and is considered day-to-day. The Pirates agreed to an eight-year extension with Hayes prior to the start of the game, a deal which is still pending a physical.
Duane Underwood Jr. also exited the game with what the club said is a hamstring injury suffered while facing Tommy Edman. Underwood tried throwing a practice pitch, but didn’t like how it felt and immediately exited the game. The severity of his injury hasn’t yet been disclosed. If Underwood misses time, the Pirates have Roansy Contreras as the only available arm already on the 40-man roster.
The Cardinals struck first when O’Neill plated Dylan Carslon on a hard hit ball up the middle that got passed Hoy Park. O’Neill added three more in the second inning with a home run over the left field fence, extending the Cardinals lead to 4-0. He added a sacrifice fly in the eighth inning.
Brubaker lasted only three innings and gave up four runs on four hits and three walks. He gave way to Wil Crowe who was tasked with eating a couple innings out of the bullpen, and he did just that tossing two scoreless.
St. Louis tacked on another run thanks to a Carlson sacrifice fly in the sixth. Edman and Nolan Arenado each homered off of Pirates left-hander Aaron Fletcher, the latter of which put the Cardinals up 9-0.
Yoshi Tsutsugo collected a pair of singles in the loss, the only Pirate to record multiple hits. Roberto Perez was on base twice, once on a base hit and once on a walk.
New Cardinals manager Oli Marmol gets his first win as the man in charge of the Red Birds.
The second game of the series is Saturday at 2:15. Mitch Keller gets the ball for the Pirates opposite Miles Mikolas.
Stat of the Game
- The Pirates entered play with an Opening Day record of 72-63 which was tied for the 10th-best winning percentage all-time.
- Ageless Wonder: The 40-year old Wainwright seems to be getting better with age. Last season, in terms of ERA+, Wainwright put up his best full season since 2014 when he finished third in the Cy Young race and eighth on the MVP list. He’s also been a big thorn in the side of the Pirates for seemingly his whole career. His 21 wins against the Pirates are the most he’s had against any team in the league. He entered play with a career 3.73 ERA in 47 games (41 starts) against the Bucs.
- Home Run Hiccup: The main problem that plagued Brubaker’s difficult second half last season hurt him again in the opener. Brubaker allowed 18 home runs over his final 10 starts of last season, and O’Neill’s three-run shot off him served as an early dagger on Thursday. The right-hander surrendered 28 home runs last season, which was tied for third-most in the National League behind Patrick Corbin (37) and Kyle Hendricks (31). Yu Darvish also gave up 28 long balls.
- Piggyback Wil Do: We saw it in spring training and it took until the first game of the regular season. Crowe came in for Brubaker, who couldn’t work deep into the game. Crowe looked comfortable in this role in spring and did again on Opening Day. This type of usage will play an important part for the Bucs, especially early in the year, since the starting pitchers aren’t quite as built up to where they would be normally coming out of spring training. Crowe walked two, struck out three and didn’t allow any hits in his two scoreless frames.
- Unusual Lineup Construction: Daniel Vogelbach, who checks in at 270 pounds, was the Pirates designated hitter. His spot in the lineup? Leadoff. Vogelbach has done a good job of drawing walks in his career so it does make some sense even if it doesn’t look right. Vogelbach was atop the Pirates lineup multiple times in spring training, so this didn’t come as much of a surprise. Another oddity in the lineup was the light-hitting Kevin Newman in the five-spot. This came back to haunt the Pirates when Newman bounced into an inning-double play with a runner on third base.