Roles reversed as Reds play Cards in key early season series

Published 11:57 pm Sunday, April 6, 2014

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The pitching matchup, Tony Cingrani vs. Michael Wacha, is a repeat from the second game of the season in Cincinnati when neither allowed a run in a combined 13 2-3 innings. The color scheme is the same, too, another stadium bathed in red.

Just like much of the first week, the threat of rain hovers over the St. Louis Cardinals home opener against the Reds Monday afternoon. forecasts an 80 percent chance of precipitation.

The early season has been a time for cultivating patience for the Cardinals, coming off their second World Series appearance in three years. Three of the first four games were delayed by rain for a total of seven hours and 27 minutes.

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They return Monday to spruced-up surroundings, with the long anticipated opening of Ballpark Village offering diversions aplenty to help get through the waiting games. The $100 million first phase features several sports bars, five live performance stages, the team’s Hall of Fame museum, rooftop seating and one of the larger indoor TV screens in the Midwest.

There’ll be plenty of pomp and circumstance, too, with the team making a grand entrance into Busch Stadium on the back of convertibles that cruise around the warning track. Old hat for many, it’ll be the first time for center fielder Peter Bourjos, acquired in the offseason from the Angels in a deal for David Freese.

“I’ve heard great things,” Bourjos said. “I’ve heard the fans are unbelievable and I’ve heard Opening day is awesome. It’s something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time.”

Cardinals greats, clad in bright red sportcoats, consistently gather on opening day. Hall of Famers Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, Ozzie Smith, Bruce Sutter, Red Schoendienst, Tony La Russa and Whitey Herzog are expected to attend the grand opening of the hall of fame museum several hours before the first pitch.

“Opening day in Cincinnati, we were all anxious to just take off realizing there were not a whole lot of people that wanted us to do well — even though there was a lot of red in the stands,” manager Mike Matheny said.

“There’s nothing like being home for the first one.”

Matheny’s advice to the uninitiated: Take it all in, and then take care of business against the Reds, the home opener opponent for the second straight year.

“This is pretty cool, this is the stuff you talk about when you’re playing Wiffle ball in the backyard,” Matheny said. “Don’t let this slip by, but by the way, let’s get something done here.”

Minus many key arms, the Reds have scuffled early with a 2-4 start. Closer Aroldis Chapman and setup men Jonathon Broxton and Sean Marshall are all out, leaving no experienced closer, plus ace Mat Latos is recovering from knee surgery at the start of spring training.

The Reds began the season with eight players on the 15-day disabled list, most in the majors.

Success in St/ Louis has been rare for the Reds. The Cardinals have dominated them at home with 25 series wins, three losses and two splits the last 30 meetings since 2003.

Homer Bailey (0-1, 8.31) and Lance Lynn (1-0, 5.40) are the starters Tuesday with Mike Leake (0-1, 5.40) opposing Shelby Miller (0-1, 8.44) on Wednesday.

The rivalry factor figures to help the Reds facing an opponent coming off a 97-win season and pretty much at full strength. Starter Jaime Garcia and reliever Jason Motte are rehabbing from surgeries but weren’t expected to contribute the opening month.

The Reds spoiled the St. Louis home opener last April with a nine-run ninth and 13-4 victory that hastened the end of Mitchell Boggs’ brief run as stand-in closer.

“It’s all about getting wins, regardless of what you’re trying to spoil or whatever,” second baseman Brandon Phillips said. “You want to go out there and get as many wins as possible because you never know if these games matter later on in the season.”

Phillips adds: “It’s always good trying to beat these guys.”

The Cardinals (3-3) have a steady early diet of NL Central contenders, taking two of three from the Reds and losing two of three in Pittsburgh. All three teams made the postseason last fall.

“I like jumping right in and seeing these guys,” Matheny said. “When you have a lot of faith in yourself, which we do, you like to get out there and match up right from the start.”