April Fool's Day has not been kind to the St Louis Cardinals; rather, it has been a cruel joke three out of the four times the Redbirds have been scheduled to play on this practical joker's holiday. Last year, for example, Adam Wainwright's opening day assignment in Arizona versus the Diamondbacks was a far cry from the gem he hurled last night in Cincinnati (no runs on three hits in seven innings, with nine strikeouts). On April 1, 2013 Waino surrendered four runs (all earned) on eleven hits in just six innings of work. Arizona tacked on a couple more runs en route to an easy 6-2 win.
Back in 2008, the Cardinals hosted the Colorado Rockies, as Kyle Lohse started for St Louis, worked five scoreless innings, and was in line to get the win when Yadier Molina broke a scoreless tie with a fifth-inning solo home run (sound familiar?). Colorado was held in check until the eighth-inning, when our old friend Ryan Franklin retired nary a single batter, loading the bases on two singles and a base on balls. By the time the mess was over, the Rockies had a 2-1 lead which they never relinquished, as Franklin chalked up another blown save and a loss in one fell swoop.
In Cincinnati last night, the bullpen held on to that precarious 1-0 lead, despite a rocky eighth-inning when poor defense had the Reds in a position to at least tie the game; perhaps even go ahead.
Going back to April 1, 2007, the defending World Champion Cardinals opened the season at home versus the New York Mets - the team they eliminated in a classic seven game NLCS just a few short months prior - and this time, the New Yorkers exacted some measure of revenge, as an ineffective and injured Chris Carpenter struggled through six innings, allowing six runs (five earned) on nine hits. Future Hall of Famer Tom Glavine sailed through six innings to capture a 6-1 win. Not only was 2007 a disaster for Carpenter, who was essentially shelved for the entire year with a bad shoulder - it was a disaster for the Redbirds as a whole. Nothing seemed to go right all season, as the Redbirds finished below .500 for the only time since the beginning of the millennium.
We have to go all the way back to 2002 to experience the thrill of April Fool's Day victory for the Cardinals. St Louis scored early and often en route to an easy 10-2 win over the visiting Colorado Rockies, as ace Matt Morris breezed through seven innings, allowing just a single run on five hits. The 2001 Rookie of the Year - Albert Pujols - got off to a flying start to the new season with a pair of doubles in four trips to the plate, good for three runs batted in. Cardinal fans would be treated to eleven Hall of Fame-caliber seasons to the player manager Tony LaRussa said was the best he ever managed. No argument here.
The 2014 Cards seem to have a stacked deck; perhaps even the best team in baseball. But with the way things have gone in the past on April Fool's Day, it's probably a good thing they had the night off this time around.