There were two aquariums, a strange structure in the outfield, a bobblehead museum, over-the-top pregame introductions that included Brazilian dancers and Muhammad Ali—and then finally there was a baseball game.
Unfortunately for Miami, the game did not go as they had planned it at all.
St. Louis starter Kyle Lohse did not allow a hit until the seventh inning and the Cardinals racked up four runs on 13 hits to defeat Miami 4-1 on Wednesday night.
Lohse worked through the Miami lineup masterfully, before giving way to the St. Louis bullpen in the eighth inning. The pen allowed one run in the eighth before closer Jason Motte slammed the door in the ninth.
Offensively, St. Louis was on fire tonight. The Cardinals put runners on base in six of the nine innings, and seven of the eight position players were able to get hits at some point throughout the game.
Overall, it was a great night for the Cardinals. Here are five things that St. Louis fans should take away from the game.
1) St. Louis Is Dangerous
There is no other way to put it, St. Louis dominated Miami tonight. Hits were being sprayed all over the field, the pitching was outstanding and the defense was very good as well. If the Cardinals can play like this on a consistent basis, the rest of MLB needs to watch out.
There was no World Series hangover tonight. There was no sign that the Cardinals needed Albert Pujols, Tony La Russa or Dave Duncan.
Instead, it was a hungry team that was ready to show that they could win another championship. It was a team ready to show that Cardinals baseball was not all about Albert Pujols.
St. Louis came ready to play tonight and stuck it to the Marlins all night. The rest of MLB received their warning tonight—St. Louis is going to be contending for another title in 2012.
2) Kyle Lohse Has the Talent
Should we expect Kyle Lohse to look like this every night?
Probably not, but we can expect to see him in top form this season. Lohse has always had the ability to be a great pitcher, but over the past few years he has continuously run into trouble in the middle innings.
Tonight, Lohse showed that he is ready to help fill the void that Chris Carpenter left in the rotation. He pitched arguably the best game of his career on Wednesday.
If Lohse can continue to give the Cardinals solid starts out of the rotation, then we have at least one spot in the five man rotation taken care of.
Chris Carpenter, take your time to heal; Lohse will hold down the fort at No. 1 until you return.
3) Jon Jay is Becoming a Great Defensive Center Fielder
The Miami Marlins' new outfield is gigantic, but Jon Jay had no problem with that. Jay made some great catches in the outfield tonight, including a spectacular catch in deep center field to save a run in the seventh inning.
Another play I really liked from Jay was on Jose Reyes' ninth-inning single. Jay was able to quickly get over and cut the ball off to prevent Reyes from reaching extra bases. The play was critical because St. Louis was able to get Reyes out on a force out on the next play.
I know it's cliche, but little things like that are what wins baseball games.
4) Albert Who? Our Slugger is Named David Freese
Throw out the spring training stats.
When the lights came on Wednesday night, David Freese was ready to go. The Cardinal third baseman went 3-for-5 with two RBI and a run scored.
I picked Freese to make his first All-Star Game in 2012, and he certainly showed he was capable of that tonight. His bat was alive from the start and he looked pretty good defensively as well.
I know that everyone keeps saying that we should not expect this from Freese all season, because he has been hitting for such a high average since last October, but I am beginning to wonder if this guy could be a really special player.
I guess we will find out soon.
5) RISP 2-14
Besides the fact that Matt Holliday did not get a hit (I didn't make a category for him, because I want to see him in about a week of games before I critique him too much), the only downside tonight was that the Cardinals did not hit well with runners in scoring position.
If you watched the entire game, you probably noticed that the Cardinals were dominating every aspect of it, but the scoreboard was not really telling of that. That would be because St. Louis failed to produce with runners in scoring position on too many occasions.
They did step up in some key spots, such as the two-run RBI single from Freese in the first, but there were many times where they had a chance to really stick the dagger in Miami and did not do it.
I am not telling everyone to panic about this, since it was only the first game of the year, but I did want to list something negative that happened for St. Louis tonight.
Down the stretch in close games, St. Louis will need to produce better with runners in scoring position.
This should be an interesting storyline to follow heading into Milwaukee this weekend.
Overall it was a great night for St. Louis. The Cardinals showed that they are ready to go 2012. It was a great way for rookie manager Mike Matheny to begin his career, but there is always room for improvement.
Hitting better with runners in scoring position is definitely the thing St. Louis needs to work on this weekend in Milwaukee, and heading forward in 2012.