PHILADELPHIA (AP)—Down eight runs with four outs left, Jimmy Rollins wasn’t looking for a walk with his hitting streak on the line.
Rollins kept up his pursuit of Joe DiMaggio’s major league record 56-game hitting streak with a double off a 3-0 pitch in the eighth inning, but it was the lone bright spot for the Philadelphia Phillies in their season opener on Monday.
Rollins was 0-for-3 with a sacrifice fly before he lined a shot off Adam Wainwright down the right-field line.
“If he had thrown a ball and I couldn’t get to it, I wouldn’t have swung,” Rollins said about swinging with a 3-0 count. “I wasn’t going to give the at-bat away.”
Chris Carpenter pitched five effective innings for the win, though he wasn’t as sharp as he was most of last season, when he went 21-5 and won the NL Cy Young Award. Carpenter allowed four runs and nine hits.
Rolen was 3-for-5 with four RBIs, Pujols was 2-for-2 with four RBIs and Aaron Miles had four hits, including two doubles and a triple. Every Cardinals starter, including Carpenter, had a hit by the time St. Louis completed an eight-run fourth inning.
“There’s no way to explain it, coming here swinging the bats like that,” Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa said. “There were a lot of hits in that ballgame, but in the end, we had a couple of big damaging ones.”
It was so ugly in Philadelphia that even the mascot had a bad day. The Phillie Phanatic’s four-wheeler briefly stalled near the third-base line in the sixth inning, forcing the teams to wait a bit before starting play.
“It was a rough first game for us,” manager Charlie Manuel said.
Loser Jon Lieber picked up where he left off in spring training, giving up eight runs and nine hits in 3 1-3 innings.
Lieber finished 17-13 in his first season in Philadelphia, and was one of the league’s best pitchers over the final month when he was 5-1 with a 2.06 ERA in his last seven starts. But he allowed 12 runs and 19 hits in 10 innings in his last two starts this spring, and continued his struggles into his seventh opening day start.
“I felt fine. The results are a little embarrassing,” Lieber said. “I have nobody to blame but myself.”
Lieber struck out the first two batters he faced, before Pujols walked after a close call on a two-strike pitch. Jim Edmonds then lined a triple into the right-field corner to give St. Louis a 1-0 lead. Lieber fanned Rolen to end the inning, but it only got worse from there.
Pujols, the reigning NL MVP, hit a solo homer in the third and the Cardinals broke it open in the fourth. Miles had a two-run triple off Lieber, and Rolen made it 10-0 when he homered deep into the left-field seats off Julio Santana after Edmonds was intentionally walked to load the bases.
It was Rolen’s first regular-season game since July. The four-time All-Star third baseman missed two-thirds of the season with a left shoulder injury that required two operations. Rolen, who became unpopular in Philadelphia after forcing a trade from the Phillies in 2002, was loudly booed every time he came up.
“I’ll take three hits on opening day anywhere,” Rolen said. “I felt better the last two weeks of spring. I felt I could drive the ball. Things change when you get in a major league stadium, the atmosphere changes, the ball seems to travel a little farther.”
The Phillies raised the left-field wall 2 1/2 feet from 8 feet and angled it back 5 feet to cut down on homers—there were 429 hit in the first two seasons at Citizens Bank Park.
But it didn’t matter to Pujols, whose first shot landed deep into the left-field seats and his second one reached the upper deck. Each of the five homers hit went to left-center or left field, including Howard’s opposite-field shot in the sixth.
St. Louis is coming off a disappointing end to a 100-win season. The Cardinals won their second straight NL Central title, but lost to wild-card winner Houston in the NL championship series. St. Louis has won at least 93 games in five of the last six seasons, but lost to Boston in 2004 in its only World Series appearance in that stretch.
Philadelphia finished one game behind NL wild-card winner Houston and two games behind NL East champion Atlanta.
The Phillies are 56-66-2 in season openers. St. Louis is 53-60-2 on opening day, including 19-32-2 on the road. … The Cardinals have five more games on the road before playing their home opener at new Busch Stadium against Milwaukee on April 10. … CF Aaron Rowand, acquired in the trade that sent Jim Thome to the Chicago White Sox, doubled in his first at-bat for the Phillies.