Welcome to Baseball Heaven, Nolan Arenado.
In what was a pitchers’ battle all game long, Arenado broke a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the eighth, as the Cardinals came back to beat Milwaukee 3-1 in the home opener on Thursday.
The victory was the Cardinals’ fourth straight after sweeping Miami.
It had been over 500 days since a crowd had seen baseball in St. Louis, and after Arenado’s home run, the crowd of 13,328 gave the newest Cardinal star a resounding ovation, followed by something he had never received in Colorado… a curtain call.
“It doesn’t feel very real right now,” Arenado said. “It will sink in. It’s unbelievable.”
But it was an emotional game all around for many reasons on Thursday.
Prior to the game, Lou Brock and Bob Gibson were both honored with tributes, and per tradition, all of the living Hall of Famers were honored, as were the members of the Cardinals Hall of Fame, including Scott Rolen, who, from one third baseman to another, threw the ceremonial first pitch to Arenado.
Kolten Wong, now a member of the Brewers, also made an emotional return to St. Louis, to a standing ovation from Cardinal Nation, a move which left the second baseman in tears.
Meanwhile, baseball’s best battery, Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina, went to work like they have since 2007 (when Wainwright became a starter), as they are firmly in place in fourth place all-time, with 288 starts as a battery. The all-time record is 324, a record that Wainwright and Molina can still break.
The 39-year-old righthander allowed one run and five hits in five innings with six strikeouts and two walks. He also tied Gibson for most home opener starts by a Cardinal… tied with the late Gibson.
“The first three innings I felt completely out of sorts,” Wainwright said. “The ball was flat.”
As stated before, it was a battle of pitching, as unfortunately for St. Louis, they struck out 12 times in the game, a struggle that has been constant throughout the season thus far. Paul Goldschmidt was also missing from the Cardinals lineup as a precaution due to back stiffness.
Alex Reyes, who has shined thus far as closer, got the save, while Giovanny Gallegos got the victory, as the bullpen continues to be a bright spot for the Cardinals this season.
On Saturday, Carlos Martinez will get the start for St. Louis, as he looks to bounce back from his rough first start last week against Cincinnati.