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March 31, 2014

Molina’s homer enough for Cardinals

CINCINNATI — Yadier Molina got the loudest boos during pregame introductions. The five-time All-Star catcher got booed again as he rounded the bases for his game-turning homer.

On opening day, he was driving them batty in Cincinnati again.

Molina broke a seventh-inning time with a home run Monday and made a pair of slick defensive plays, leading the defending National League champion St. Louis Cardinals to a 1-0 victory over the Reds.

Everyone knew the star of this one.

“Matt Holliday said it best when we were coming in shaking hands: ‘Yadi wins,”’ starter Adam Wainwright said.

It wasn’t all Molina. The Cardinals’ impeccable pitching was in top form, too.

The Reds were blanked on opening day for the first time since 1953, ending the second-longest streak of scoring in at least one run in season openers in major league history.

The Phillies went 62 years without being blanked in an opener from 1911-72.

Wainwright used his refined sinker to finally get the best of the Reds, who have hit him like no other team. Wainwright allowed three hits in seven innings, fanning nine.

“I’ve never pitched great against the Reds,” said Wainwright, who threw 105 pitches. “Today I wanted to make the emphasis on executing pitches. I tried to simplify it as much as possible.”

St. Louis escaped a threat in the eighth, when the Reds had runners on first and third with nobody out. Trevor Rosenthal retired all three batters in the ninth, finishing a three-hitter.

“We weren’t able to get a hit there,” said Bryan Price, who lost his managing debut. “It was disappointing, but there will be more disappointments along the way.”

During pregame introductions, Molina got by far the loudest boos from the crowd of 43,134 — the second-largest for a regular-season game in Great American Ball Park history. Fans still haven’t forgiven the five-time All Star catcher for a 2010 brawl at home plate with Brandon Phillips.

They were booing again after his first-pitch homer in the seventh, his second career off Johnny Cueto (0-1). It was one of only three hits off Cueto in seven innings.

Not that the catcher noticed all the commotion from the stands.

“I come over here and try to win games,” he said. “That’s why I’m here.”

Molina also fielded Joey Votto’s grounder in front of the plate to start a double play in the third inning, part of an impressive game all-around.

“I’m biased, but I think he’s the best I’ve ever seen at that position,” Wainwright said.

Wainwright won 19 games and finished second in the NL Cy Young Award voting last season, when he had his biggest trouble with the Reds. He went 1-3 in four starts with a 7.77 ERA against Cincinnati, getting knocked around so much that he called it a “head-scratcher.”

Wainwright (1-0) refined a sinker in spring training and was in control on a breezy, 64-degree afternoon. He fanned new Reds leadoff hitter Billy Hamilton four times.

The Reds’ best chance came in the eighth, when the Cardinals committed two errors. Phillips became the first Reds runner to reached third base, but was caught in a rundown on Jay Bruce’s grounder. Carlos Martinez fanned Todd Frazier for the final out, stranding a runner at third.

Cueto’s third straight opening-day start was a reminder that it’s a matter of staying healthy. He was on the disabled list three times last season, limited to 11 starts. He changed his delivery slightly to try to avoid injury, and was on the mark on opening day until Molina connected.

There were no close plays that merited replays.



 

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