CINCINNATI >> The Cincinnati Reds were shut out for the first time on opening day since 1953 when they lost to the Cardinals 1-0 on Monday. The Milwaukee Braves had been the authors of a 2-0 whitewash that day 61 years ago with Max Surkont, not Warren Spahn, doing the honors.
The Cardinals’ defense, impressive at some points in Monday’s game, nearly squelched their shutout with some shabby play in the eighth inning when they botched two double plays. But they found that the best defense was the strikeout, 12 in all, including one by Carlos Martinez that bailed out both second baseman Kolten Wong and first baseman Matt Adams in the eighth and two by winner and starter Adam Wainwright after a Peter Bourjos drop in the fifth.
"Thank God, it’s a team sport," said Wong, referring to his gaffe.
After veteran righthander Pat Neshek had walked Brandon Phillips to start the Reds’ eighth, the circus came to town.
Joey Votto, facing lefthander Kevin Siegrist, who had fanned him four times in five career at-bats, hit the ball this time. But this one could have been two outs except for Wong’s misplay. The ball rolled through Wong’s legs, sending Phillips to third.
"I tried to do too much instead of what I practiced," said Wong. "Instead of trying to backhand that ball, like I should have, I got in front of it and I made an error. I really didn’t think about the double play too much. I wanted to get the out.
"Unfortunately, that was the wrong idea," the former No. 1 draft pick said. "I definitely had better learn and learn quick."
But, he said, "Thank God for our pitching. They came in and got me out of that jam."
The Cardinals did make one good defensive play in the inning. First baseman Matt Adams gloved Jay Bruce’s one-hopper and prepared to throw home. But Adams, at the last instant, noticed that Phillips had stopped his approach to the plate and the 260-pounder began running at Phillips, which would unnerve anybody.
"I saw him stop and knew I had to get him in a rundown," said Adams.
Adams got Phillips to backtrack and then flipped the ball to third baseman Matt Carpenter, who tagged Phillips out as they nearly got tangled. Carpenter managed to right himself before Votto could make third.
"One of the things we worked on in the spring," said Adams, "was cutting down the number of throws on our rundowns."
Martinez relieved to get Ryan Ludwick to hit an even more perfect double-play ball to Wong, who flipped to shortstop Jhonny Peralta, who relayed to Adams at first. Wong and Peralta began commending each other on the play.
"I got pumped and I turned around and I hear the crowd and saw that he had dropped it," said Wong. "I said, ‘Oh, dang.’ But what are you going to do? I was in the same situation the play before."
Adams, saying it was the first time for him, had the ball bounce out of the palm of his glove and the inning was prolonged.
"That ball needs to be caught," said Adams. "I need to do a better job of making sure that (the ball) is in there."
Adams had a plus day, though, considering he singled and also got a double on a ball that he rolled down the first-base line against Johnny Cueto in the fourth inning.
The Reds had overshifted to the right side of the infield but, in this instance, Cueto pitched Adams away.
"I was just hitting the ball where it’s pitched," Adams said. "I wasn’t trying to go over that way. If I try to do it, then I probably hit into the shift.
"But if they want to keep pitching me there, then let them do it."
Bourjos’ error had come after a long run to track down Brayan Pena’s fly ball to left center. Left fielder Matt Holliday said, "Nobody else gets to that ball. That’s a ball that no one else even tries to catch."
But Bourjos, who earlier had made a good catch in right center, said, "It hit me in the heel of the glove and bounced right out. I don’t know what else to say about it. It should have been caught."
In the end, it all came out in the wash.
"Luckily, this is game one," said Wong. "Hopefully, learn from it with another 161 games coming."