The sellout crowd in the Miami Marlins’ new ballpark cheered the introduction of their starters, who were accompanied by women dressed as Latin showgirls. There was another roar for Muhammad Ali, who delivered the first pitch.
Then Kyle Lohse and the World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals went to work, and the place grew quiet.
Lohse held Miami hitless until the seventh inning and pitched into the eighth to help the Cardinals win the first game in Marlins Park, 4-1 Wednesday night.
The Marlins’ new animated home-run sculpture never budged. It was the fourth inning before they even managed a baserunner.
“It’s a good ballpark for a pitcher, obviously,” Lohse said. “It’s pretty hard to get it out.”
New Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen was asked if the new home is a pitcher’s park.
“For Lohse, yes,” Guillen said. “But it’s too early to say how the ballpark is going to play.”
The crowd of 36,601 included newly retired Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, who quietly rooted for his former team from the press box.
He watched Lohse retire the first 10 batters before hitting Emilio Bonifacio with a pitch. The runner was erased when Hanley Ramirez grounded into a double play.
Newcomer Jose Reyes singled for Miami’s first hit to start the seventh, and Omar Infante scored the Marlins’ run in the eighth on John Buck’s double. Lohse went 7 1-3 innings, allowing only two hits and one run.
The right-handed Lohse led the Cardinals last year in victories and ERA but got the call for opening day only because ace Chris Carpenter is sidelined with nerve irritation that has caused weakness in his pitching shoulder.
David Freese, the World Series MVP, had a two-run single in the first inning to give Lohse the cushion he needed. Freese and Rafael Furcal each had three of the Cardinals’ 13 hits.
“Tonight was fun,” Freese said. “It’s always nice to get the season going and to open up here, beautiful ballpark, the fans were excited about it and so were we.”
Jason Motte earned the save with a one-hit ninth, completing the four-hitter and sending the Cardinals to the clubhouse to celebrate first-year manager Mike Matheny’s debut win.
“We gave him a little water shower,” Lohse said. “Most people go with the adult beverage but we went with the water.”
Things were so bad for Guillen’s team that Marlins ace Josh Johnson recorded the ballpark’s first strikeout – but as a hitter.
Johnson allowed 10 hits and three runs in six innings. The 2010 NL ERA leader was pitching for the first time since last May 16, when shoulder inflammation ended his year.
Ramirez, making the switch to third base from shortstop, had an especially rough night. He drew scattered boos when he pulled up rather than dive for a grounder to his left, and he failed to throw out Furcal on a bunt that went for a hit. Ramirez also struck out with a runner aboard in the ninth to finish 0 for 4.
Both teams began the season with a new look. The Marlins, anticipating better attendance and higher revenue in their new home, acquired three All-Stars in an offseason spending spree. The Cardinals, coming off a thrilling late-season charge to the World Series title, lost slugger Albert Pujols to free agency and La Russa to retirement.
La Russa visited with Matheny before the game. Also on hand was baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, who said his reaction to the ballpark was, “Wow.”
Among the eye-catching features is the colorful home-run sculpture beyond the center-field wall, but the Marlins failed to activate it, although Giancarlo Stanton did send two flies to the warning track.
The retractable roof, which is expected to be closed for all but about 10 games, was opened 30 minutes before the first pitch, revealing a nearly full moon on a 79-degree evening. Surprise guest Ali delivered the first pitch, which Ramirez gently took from the champ’s hand.
The first pitch from Johnson to Rafael Furcal caught the outside corner for a called strike. Furcal then grounded to new shortstop Reyes for the first out.
Cardinals newcomer Carlos Beltran followed with the first hit, a sharp single to right. He took third on a double by Lance Berkman, and Freese drove in both runs with a two-out single.
Furcal’s two-out RBI single in the second made it 3-0, and a 50-foot groundout by Daniel Descalso brought home an insurance run in the eighth.
NOTES: The Marlins drew 41,237 for last year’s home opener, then went on to finish last in the NL in attendance for the seventh consecutive year. … Before the game, Guillen said Ramirez has a chance to be the NL MVP. … The only no-hitter on opening day was thrown in 1940 by Hall of Famer Bob Feller for the Cleveland Indians against the Chicago White Sox. … Lohse pitched five shutout innings in his only other opening-day start, which was in 2008.