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Cardinals show potential in home opener

Cardinals shortstop Jhonny Peralta discusses thumb injury

St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Jhonny Peralta was at Busch Stadium Monday for the team's home opener. He is on the disabled list with a torn ligament in his left thumb.
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St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Jhonny Peralta was at Busch Stadium Monday for the team's home opener. He is on the disabled list with a torn ligament in his left thumb.

Opening day is a celebration in St. Louis whether the Cardinals win or lose.

But there were many things for Redbirds rooters to be happy about Monday besides the lopsided score in favor of the home team.

▪ The discovery of the offense.

St. Louis, which had struggled to score runs in spring training as well as the season-opening sweep at the hands of the Pittsburgh Pirates, pounded out a home opener record 19 hits against Milwaukee Monday.

The Birds stranded runners by the bunch in Pittsburgh. But on Monday the team hit .400 (8-for-20) with runners in scoring position.

▪ The settling of Michael Wacha.

The St. Louis number two starter struggled through spring training and was absolutely pounded by the Pirates.

Those facts, coupled with the way that Wacha hit the wall last August, left fans wondering if he was hurt.

After giving up a few hard-hit balls at fielders Monday, Wacha settled in and put up some numbers more reflective of what we’ve come to expect from the ace in the making: Six innings pitched, four hits allowed, seven strikeouts, one walk.

He hit 95 and 96 on the Busch Stadium radar gun with regularity and had much better command than we have seen in recent appearances.

▪ Signs of life from some of the struggling players.

While Rookies Jeremy Hazelbaker and Aledmys Diaz have paced the offense in recent days, Randal Grichuk lost the hot bat he swung in spring training and some other St. Louis veterans haven’t been able to get into a groove.

Redbirds manager Mike Matheny recalls the moment he told rookie Jeremy Hazelbaker that he had made the team in spring training.

But Grichuk was 2-for-3 with a pair of walks Monday. He scored twice and drove in a run with a two-strike hit.

Yadier Molina was 3-for-four with two RBIs including an impressive line drive into the left field corner that appeared that it might leave the park before turning into one of two doubles he hit on the day.

Molina, suffering from thumb injuries the last couple of years that have sapped his power, seems like he might finally be cured this time.

Matt Carpenter, who seemed lost at the plate in the spring, was 2-for-4 with a run and two batted in.

▪ Improvement of the defense.

The Cardinals haven’t played many crisp games with the glove so far this season. The infielders have been especially rough with errors all around.

But when Wacha was trying to find himself early in the game he was bailed out a couple of times by fielders.

Diaz made a couple of very nice plays at short and Hazelbaker laid out to make a diving catch in left.

I don’t think anyone expects that the Cardinals are going to rack up 19 hits and 10 runs every game from here on out. But, hopefully, this team has finally come together to play to its potential.

There are a lot of new faces on this club due to turnover and injuries. So maybe it just took a few games to get it all together.

If so, it seems like this could be a really fun team to watch.

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