Oliver Marmol perhaps is wondering what is so hard about this big-league managing gig.
His Cardinals starting pitcher, Adam Wainwright, blanks the opening-day opponents, the Pittsburgh Pirates, for six innings. His defense, overflowing with Gold Glovers, turns three double plays. And he gets home runs from his No. 3, 4 and 9 hitters (Tyler O’Neill, Nolan Arenado, Tommy Edman) while his No. 2 hitter, Paul Goldschmidt, is the ultimate table setter with four walks and a single.
While this 9-0 win was about as much of a walkover as you can have in major league ball, Marmol is not alone in succeeding in his first game as a Cardinal manager. In the past 61 years, only one manager, Hall of Famer Tony La Russa, has lost his first game as Cardinals manager.
In La Russa’s debut in 1996, the Cardinals gave up a three-run lead in the seventh at New York as Bernard Gilkey, who played for the Cardinals just the year before, singled to tie the game in his Mets debut in a four-run uprising that gave them a 7-6 victory. This was despite Cardinals leadoff man Willie McGee, another Cardinals Hall of Famer, driving in three runs and hitting a home run.
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Marmol’s predecessor, Mike Shildt, won his first game as Cardinals manager on July 15, 2018 when leadoff man Matt Carpenter homered to lead off the game for the Cardinals in a 6-4 triumph over Cincinnati.
Shildt’s predecessor, Mike Matheny, won his first game at Miami to start the 2012 season when Kyle Lohse beat the Marlins 4-1.
Before La Russa, Mike Jorgensen had relieved Hall of Famer Joe Torre for the final 96 games of the 1995 season. Jorgensen won his debut 6-5 over San Francisco with Cardinals Hall of Famer Ray Lankford hitting a two-run homer.
Torre, who succeeded Hall of Famer Whitey Herzog in 1990, won his first game as Cardinals manager by beating Philadelphia 4-3 on a three-run double by Cardinals Hall of Famer Vince Coleman, who was also in the Busch Stadium house on Thursday, joining Lankford, Torre, McGee and Herzog.
Herzog, who succeeded Ken Boyer as manager, won his first Cardinals game at Atlanta 8-5 in 10 innings on June 9, 1980, when George Hendrick hit a three-run homer off submariner Gene Garber.
Boyer, who took over for Vern Rapp in 1978 when Eric Rasmussen (who also went by Harry Rasmussen at times in his career), beat Los Angeles 1-0, in his first game as Cardinals manager.
Rapp himself had won his opener in 1977 as the Cardinals beat the Philadelphia Phillies 12-5 when Cardinals Hall of Famer Keith Hernandez homered and knocked in four runs.
Hall of Famer Red Schoendienst, who managed for 12 seasons as Rapp’s predecessor, didn’t win his first game. But he didn’t lose it either. Hall of Famer Bob Gibson blew a 5-0 first-inning lead at Chicago’s Wrigley Field to open the 1965 season. The Cubs’ Ernie Banks hit a three-run homer to tie the score in the ninth inning and then both teams scored in the 11th inning, creating a 10-10 tie when it became too dark to play at lightless Wrigley. A collective 10 hits by Schoendienst’s first three hitters in the lineup — Curt Flood, Lou Brock and Bill White, all Cardinals Hall of Famers — weren’t enough.
Waino and the Pirates
With his six scoreless frames on Thursday, Wainwright raised his total against the Pirates to 32 consecutive shutout innings. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only Phil Niekro and Jack Baldschun have more at 36 since 1961, with Baldschun’s especially notable in that it took the former Philadelphia reliever four seasons to do it from 1961-64.
Wainwright has won nine straight against Pittsburgh after having so-so success against them earlier in his career when he remembered the Pirates’ first two hitters, Freddie Sanchez and Jack Wilson, always being on base at first and third in the first inning. Indeed, Sanchez hit .368 and Wilson .364 in their careers against Wainwright.
Molina moves up on Berra
The shutout was the 149th caught by the Cardinals’ Yadier Molina, tying him with Gary Carter for second place on the career list. St. Louisan Yogi Berra seems uncatchable at 173. ... O’Neill’s five RBIs were the most by a Cardinal on opening day since Wally Roettger knocked in five in the first game of the 1928 season. Roetteger had only 39 the remainder of the season for the National League champions. ... Dylan Carlson’s bloop double as the leadoff man was the first extra-base hit by a Cardinals leadoff man on opening day since Fernando Vina tripled against the Cubs to lead off the 2000 season.
Rick Hummel @cmshhummel on Twitter email@example.com