Most Memorable Opening Days In Cardinal History #6: April 3, 2006
We are counting down to opening day with a look at the top ten most memorable opening days in Cardinal history. You can access all of these stories by CLICKING HERE.
The Cardinals marched into Citizen’s Bank Park in Philadelphia on April 3, 2006 with a giant chip on their collective shoulder. Arguably the best team in baseball during the 2004/2005 seasons, the club had been embarrassed in both postseason appearances. Rather than being remembered as the team that compiled consecutive 100-win seasons, these Cardinals were the ones who helped break the Curse of the Bambino for the 2004 Red Sox and laid down to Roy Oswalt and an inferior Astros team. This left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.
Despite the loss of Reggie Sanders to free agency and Larry Walker to injury, the Cardinals still retained a powerful, run-producing nucleus in the fabled MV3 of Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds, and Scott Rolen. The Cards also had an ace in the man taking the mound that afternoon, the reigning Cy Young award winner Chris Carpenter. Facing a Phillies team that hadn’t won their division in over ten years, the Cardinals had the odds in their favor. They did not disappoint.
The Cardinals jumped on Phillies veteran starter Jon Lieber early; after a walk to Pujols, Edmonds laced a double to the wall in right field, scoring Pujols. In the third, Pujols cranked a solo home run to make it 2-0. The score remained a tight game until the fourth, when the dangerous Cardinal lineup came to life. The team hit for the cycle in that inning, including a home run from Rolen and an improbable triple from Aaron Miles. A battered Phillies team finished the fourth down 10-0 in the blink of an eye.
After the Phillies finally reached Carpenter on a home run, the Cardinals responded with three more runs on a sacrifice fly and another home run (a 2 run shot) by Pujols. After the Phillies reached Carpenter for two runs (one by young power threat Ryan Howard), La Russa removed Carpenter and began the mix-and-match parade of relievers to close it out. After three hours of baseball, the Cardinals had secured a 13-5 demolishing of the Philadelphia Phillies.
For Cardinal fans, opening day of 2006 is bittersweet. It was one of the last times we saw the MV3 at the height of their productive powers; two weeks later Edmonds was being treated for a shoulder injury while also suffering from a concussion, and his numbers dropped sharply. Scott Rolen also dealt with shoulder injuries related to a 2005 collision and was never the same. Still, for one afternoon, the MV3 was the glorious, run-producing threat that powered the championship teams of the previous two years. On this day, the MV3 went a remarkable 6-11 with 9 RBI, three home runs, and 5 runs scored. The best offensive core since the forties Cardinals had one last fireworks display for Cardinal Nation.
With his two home runs, this opening day also marked the beginning of Pujols’ transformation from All Star slugger to legendary power hitter. In 2006, Pujols would set personal bests for home runs (49) and RBI (137). With the declining skills of Edmonds and Rolen, Pujols carried a scrappier, line-drive-hitting team into the World Series. Their win in the 2006 Series ended a long championship drought in a city accustomed to winning, and put a fitting cherry on the top of one of the most successful runs in Cardinal history.