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STL@MIA: Lohse pitches 7 1/3 innings of one-run ball

MIAMI -- The Cardinals played the role of obliging house guest in the hours leading up to the regular-season debut of Marlins Park. They moved up their batting practice to accommodate the elaborate pregame ceremonies, praised the park during afternoon interviews and willingly stood during a longer-than-normal Opening Day procession of tributes and introductions.

And then, after Miami starter Josh Johnson christened Marlins Park with a 7:15 p.m. ET first-pitch strike to Rafael Furcal, Kyle Lohse stole the stage. In fact, he mostly monopolized it during the Cardinals' 4-1 win on Wednesday over the new-look Marlins in Mike Matheny's managerial debut.

"That's what we were hoping for," closer Jason Motte joked afterward. "That he'd go out there and throw a nice no-hit shutout."

Lohse's success only helped draw attention back the Cardinals' way. Remember, this was their first game as defending world champions, and if that fact were initially lost amid the pomp, St. Louis asserted itself as much more than an answer to trivia questions about stadium firsts.

And just like their last, this win was celebrated with a postgame beverage shower. Matheny, the first manager to make his debut with the Cardinals in 16 years, came out of it drenched.

"It was just an all-around good day," Matheny said. "Kyle was fantastic."

While the Cardinals were knocking around Johnson with relative ease, Lohse carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning of a start that wasn't actually supposed to be his. It wasn't until nerve irritation sidelined Chris Carpenter last month that the Cardinals proceeded with Plan B, which was to have Lohse make his second career Opening Day start.

Lohse faced the minimum through his first six innings. The only Marlins hitter to reach was Emilio Bonifacio, who was hit by a pitch in the fourth, and he was erased by a double play one batter later. Heading into the seventh, Lohse's pitch count sat at an efficient 70. And, yes, he was well aware of that zero on the scoreboard.

Not that that stopped him from chatting up teammates in the dugout in between his trips to the mound. He's not the superstitious type.

"I was just trying to keep having them hit balls at people," Lohse said. "I felt like [catcher] Yadier [Molina] was calling a great game back there, and I was just following him around."

Jose Reyes' leadoff single protected Bob Feller's distinction as the only pitcher to throw an Opening Day no-hitter, but Lohse was nonetheless stellar over 7 1/3 innings. He allowed just one other hit and recorded a key strikeout with one on and no outs in the eighth, even as he tired.

"During that at-bat to [Gaby] Sanchez, I felt myself trying to aim the ball," said Lohse. "[Molina] was saying, 'Just throw the ball.' I threw three as hard as I could. It got me away from aiming the ball, and I threw three pretty good pitches."

Lohse lost the shutout when Fernando Salas allowed an inherited runner to score, but he was also fortunate that the Marlins hadn't dented the scoreboard earlier. A pair of swings by Giancarlo Stanton earlier in the night produced long fly-ball outs that would have cleared center-field walls elsewhere.

The game was played with the roof open, which did not add any carry to the ball.

"Opening Day, they throw a no-hitter, that's not going to look too good," Reyes said. "We played with a lot of energy, but didn't get what we were looking for, and that was a win."

While Lohse stymied the Marlins' offense, the Cardinals pestered Johnson throughout his six innings. Carlos Beltran wasted no time getting the first hit in the stadium, lacing a one-out single to right in the first. Three batters later, David Freese followed with the stadium's first two RBIs.

Freese's two-out, two-strike single plated Beltran and Lance Berkman, who had nearly been thrown out trying to stretch his first hit of the year into a double. In all, the Cardinals tallied 10 hits off a pitcher that many believe to be a Cy Young contender. Matt Holliday was the only starting position player not to get a hit.

Furcal joined Freese with three hits. The Cardinals' shortstop drove in their third run with a two-out single in the second. His multihit night served as some validation for Matheny's decision to keep him atop the batting order despite his subpar spring results.

"I know I didn't have a good Spring Training, but everything changes when it's a real game," Furcal said. "Last weekend, I was feeling much better at home plate and was seeing the ball a little bit longer and starting to make some better contact."

Furcal hadn't been the only one struggling to accumulate the Grapefruit League hits. Freese had been, too. The pair of infielders combined for a .190 batting average this spring.

"That's the funny thing about baseball -- you can feel terrible one day and great the next," said Freese, who scored the Cardinals' final run on a groundout by Daniel Descalso. "Guys have bad springs and then come out and have great seasons. I was trying to stay confident and do my part."

The only part the Cardinals didn't play to script was spoiling the ending for the 36,601 fans on hand for an historic night in South Florida. For that, though, there were no apologies as players prepared to board a flight to Milwaukee. A three-game series against their foes from last year's National League Championship Series awaits them next.

"I like," Lohse said, "the way we look." Comments