ST. LOUIS (AP) — Nolan Arenado hit a tiebreaking, two-run homer in the eighth inning of his home debut with the Cardinals, lifting St. Louis over the Milwaukee Brewers 3-1 Thursday as fans returned to Busch Stadium for the first time since 2019.
Arenado, a five-time All-Star acquired from Colorado on Feb. 1 after eight seasons with the Rockies, followed a walk to Austin Dean with the score 1-1. Arenado turned on a first pitch 96.6 mph offering from Drew Rasmussen (0-1) and sent the ball 373 feet to left for his second homer this season.
Arenado pointed to the St. Louis dugout just before rounding first and screamed as he helped the Cardinals to their fourth straight win, setting off cheers from a crowd limited by coronavirus protocols to 13,328.
“Baseball is a magical game and it was magical today,” St. Louis manager Mike Shildt said. “The story created itself. What an amazing moment for a guy who loves to play the game. I get goosebumps just thinking about it.”
Arenado took his first curtain call after the homer, stepping out of the dugout to the delight of the crowd.
“It doesn’t feel very real right now,” Arenado said. “It will sink in. It’s unbelievable.”
Arenado’s only struggle came early in the day when he found it hard to navigate the bowels of his new stadium. He struggled to find the home dressing room.
“Got lost,” he said.
St. Louis starting pitcher Adam Wainwright said his new teammate wrote the perfect ending.
“I don’t know how much better a man can be at baseball,” Wainwright said. “Everything he brings to the table is exactly what we need.”
Wainwright started his sixth home opener, tying the franchise record set by the late Bob Gibson. The Cardinals wore patches with No. 45 on their left sleeves in honor of Gibson, the Hall of Famer who died Oct. 2.
Wainwright, a 39-year-old righthander, allowed one run and five hits in five innings with six strikeouts and two walks.
“The first three innings I felt completely out of sorts,” Wainwright said. “The ball was flat.”
Giovanny Gallegos (2-0) gave the Cardinals their third straight inning of hitless relief, following Ryan Helsley and Andrew Miller.
Alex Reyes finished the six-hitter for his third save, allowing a leadoff single to Omar Narváez in the ninth and stranding him at third when Daniel Robertson hit a game-ending flyout.
Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes gave up one hit in six scoreless innings, struck out nine and walked none.
“The ball kept coming out great,” said Burnes, who fanned 11 in a 2-0 loss to Minnesota on Saturday.
Travis Shaw had three hits for Milwaukee.
Keston Hiura doubled leading off the third to break an 0-for-20 slide that started the season and scored when Wainwright’s pickoff attempt sailed into centerfield and Dylan Carlson overran the ball on a play scored a double error.
Tyler O’Neill had a tying infield single off Eric Yardley in the seventh.
Milwaukee INF Kolten Wong received a standing ovation leading off the game. Wong spent eight years with the Cardinals before St. Louis declined his option last fall. He became a free agent and signed with the Brewers.
ROLEN TO NOLAN
Former St. Louis third baseman Scott Rolen threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Arenado. Rolen spent 17 seasons in the major leagues, including 2002-2007 with the Cardinals.
Brewers: RHP Justin Topa was been moved to the 60-day IL with elbow discomfort.
Cardinals: INF Paul Goldschmidt was held out of Thursday’s game due to lower back tightness. The team said it was a precautionary measure.
St. Louis RHP Carlos Martinez (0-1, 7.20) will face RHP Adrian Houser (0-1, 3.60) in the second of the three-game series on Saturday. Martinez, who will be making his 125th career start, is 6-5 with a 2.23 ERA in 15 starts against the Brewers. Houser has allowed 11 runs in 17 1/3 innings against St. Louis.