As much as I anticipate the start of the St. Louis Cardinals season every year, I don't think I was more glad to see the beginning of any campaign more than this one.
Beyond the bitter end of the Birds' post-season run, the winter seemed to go on forever because of the turmoil caused by the untimely death of Oscar Taveras.
Now that games are finally being played again, maybe Cardinals fans can finally begin to heal. It was a nice bonus was able to beat its oldest rival in front of a rowdy Chicago crowd that heartily booed St. Louis players during pre-game introductions.
Jason Heyward, the guy the Redbirds went out and got to play right field after the death of Taveras, didn't disappoint with a three-hit St. Louis debut.
He doubled in his first two at-bats before adding a single later. He also scored a run and stole a base in a Cardinals 3-0 win. It was symbolic of the Birds' new, multi-dimensional offense that relies on aggressive base running as much as home run power to put runs on the board.
Ace Adam Wainwright, who missed time in spring training because of an injury, pushed through six innings in his first start of the year. He struck out six and walked none, although he spent much of the night trying to work around runners on base.
Heyward, Matt Holliday and Jon Jay combined to collect seven on the 10 Cardinals hits. Matt Adams and Yadier Molina combined to go hitless in six at bats with four strikeouts.
Carlos Martinez, who won't be needed during the first trip through the rotation because of off days, pitched a frame of shaky but scoreless relief. Jordan Walden, with a funky delivery, handled the eighth and Trevor Rosenthal smoked the Cubs, striking out the side in the bottom of the ninth.
New Cubs pitcher Jon Lester was smoked for eight hits and three runs in 4 1/3 innings by the St. Louis batters despite the fact that St. Louis had five lefties in the starting lineup against the southpaw.
More disturbingly the Cardinals revealed and exploited an apparent issue Lester has with holding runners on base and throwing the ball around the infield. St. Louis baserunners took huge leads against Lester and took off upon his first move, helping them advance runners and stay out of double plays.
Not being able to hold runners is going to cause big problems for Lester in his switch to the National League.
Cardinals Star of the Game: Wainwright had to pitch out of trouble all night, allowing four leadoff hits, three of them doubles. But he battled back each time and put up six scoreless frames to lead the Cardinals to their first win of the season.
Cardinals Play of the Game: Heyward's double in the first set the tone for the game as well as setting the table for the Birds to score their first run of the season.
Lowlight: The Cardinals might have had a laugher on their hands if they could have come through in some of their multiple chances to score runs with a man on third and less than two outs. Instead, they had to nurse a relatively slim three-run lead to secure the victory.