It has definitely been a while since we had a sports day like Thursday was in St. Louis.
The Cardinals and Blues both won openers. St. Louis triumphed in its NLDS opener over Pittsburgh, 9-1, while the Blues exploded early in a 4-2 win over the Nashville Predators at Scottrade Center.
The key to winning in postseason baseball is great starting pitching, and Adam Wainwright provided that. Waino set down the first 11 Pirates before Andrew McCutchen singled past second base in the top of the fourth inning, and went seven sterling innings to get the win.
Of course, by the time Wainwright gave up his first hit, he was staked to a 7-0 lead. His offense – starting with his own walk that led off the third – took advantage of a wild A.J. Burnett to trample the Bucs. The second hitter in the bottom of the third, Matt Carpenter, singled – and then Carlos Beltran slammed a 443-foot, three-run homer to start the scoring. It was the second-longest homer by a left-handed hitting Cardinal at the new Busch Stadium.
Beltran is the best postseason hitter of our era. His 15th career postseason home run equaled Babe Ruth for eighth on the all-time list in the same number of postseason at bats – 129. He has hit .357 in postseason games, and is the all-time leader in slugging percentage (.783) and OPS (1.244).
After Beltran, it was a parade of hitters for the Cardinals. A double, a hit batsman and a walk loaded the bases, and a Jon Jay walk made it 4-0. Then David Freese singled home Matt Adams and Yadier Molina. An error sent Jay home and ended the suspense at 7-0.
This was a huge win for the Cardinals. It set the tone. The Redbirds are the Pirates’ big brother, and the Cards pushed them down and told them not to get up in Game 1. We’ll see if the Pirates have grown up a bit in Game 2.
Thursday night at Scottrade, the upstart Blues scored three goals in the first 9:45 – goals from David Backes, Vladimir Sobotka and T.J. Oshie – and never trailed in a 4-2 win over Nashville. Alex Steen had a two-point night as the Blues rolled.
Somewhat troubling was the fact that the Blues seemed to relax after taking the lead. They were outshot 30-28 for the game and used a four-minute penalty at the end to fend off the pesky Predators.
The win is good, but there’s a long way to go for the Blues – as there is for the Cardinals. The Cards need 10 more wins to earn their 12th world championship, and the Blues are just beginning what they hope will be a magical first championship season.
For one day, these two teams and their fans defined St. Louis. We’re a great sports town with rabid, enthusiastic fans – and two teams with high hopes drew great crowds in a great sports city.
It’s early, but both franchises have lots to be excited about after winning their openers.