This Day in St. Louis Sports History: April 1


April 1, 2002: St. Louis Cardinals defeat Colorado Rockies on Opening Day at Busch Stadium

On this day 13 years ago, the St. Louis Cardinals opened their season in dominant fashion by defeating the Colorado Rockies 10-2 at Busch Stadium. Matt Morris got the win while throwing seven strong innings for the Cardinals, and Mike Hampton struggled to make it through 3.2 rough innings while starting for the Rockies before giving way to five different relievers. Five different Cardinals–Placido Polanco, Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds, Edgar Renteria, and Mike Difelice–collected multiple hits as the Cardinals racked up 14 total hits in their clobbering of the Rockies.

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The day was also a great display of Tony La Russa‘s innovativeness and willingness to experiment as a manager, as he played longtime catcher/first baseman Eli Marrero in center field for the first time. Marrero, who was able to get consistent at-bats for the first time as a Cardinal, went on to have the best season of his Cardinals career, hitting .262/.327/.451 with 18 homers and 66 RBI in 397 at-bats over 131 games. Marrero’s opportunity came thanks to La Russa’s willingness to move him around, as he saw action at catcher, first base, and all three outfield positions through the course of the year, with 36 games in center field.

La Russa made another odd lineup decision that day, starting Difelice, an offseason free agent pickup, ahead of incumbent Gold Glove starting catcher (and now Cardinals manager) Mike Matheny. Difelice, an offseason free agent pickup who was making his Cardinals debut, hit a fifth-inning solo homer off former Cardinal Mike James to help spark the Cards to victory.

Perhaps most significantly, it was the debut in St. Louis for the man who went on to be the organization’s all-time leader in saves, Jason Isringhausen. “Izzy”, who would go on to collect 217 saves over seven seasons in a Cardinals uniform, threw a hitless, scoreless ninth inning that day, though with the game already out of hand in the Cards’ favor, he did not pick up the save.

In an interesting twist of fate, four of the six pitchers that the Rockies used in the game–Dennys Reyes, Mike James, Rick White, and Jose Jimenez–spent time with the Cardinals during the course of their respective careers.

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