Monday brings the seventh game of the regular season for both the Reds and Cardinals, but it will be one loaded with pageantry, celebration and tradition. It will be the home opener at Busch Stadium and for St. Louis, the defending National League champions.
This will mark the Cardinals' first home game since Game 5 of the World Series against the Red Sox. The club will raise the 2013 NL championship banner, among other festivities that are planned.
"It's definitely an honor," said Cardinals starting pitcher Michael Wacha, who will get the ball on Monday against Reds lefty Tony Cingrani. "Just like all the other starts last year, I'll just try not to let the moment get too big."
This is the second year in a row that the Cardinals home opener has been played against Cincinnati. The Reds were 13-4 winners in that game.
Wacha, a second-year pitcher, has never given up a run to the Reds during his brief career -- a stretch of 16 2/3 innings. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny didn't think his right-hander would have any trouble tuning out the hoopla at the ballpark.
"[Distractions] can always be an issue, but he's had distractions and he's handled them well," Matheny said. "We've had distractions all season long, whether they're rain delays or Opening Days. It's just one thing after another. I think he's prepared for it, and I think he'll do just fine."
This will be a rematch from last Wednesday, when Wacha and Cingrani dueled before the game was decided in the ninth inning on Chris Heisey's RBI single for a 1-0 Reds win. Wacha gave up three hits and struck out seven over 6 2/3 innings, while Cingrani allowed two hits over seven innings with nine strikeouts.
"They were coming out swinging and weren't putting too many good swings on it. It helped me out a little bit," Cingrani said.
Reds: Trying to beat 'Arch' enemies
The Cardinals have been the Reds' closest NL Central rival in recent years, but it's been tough sledding for Cincinnati. In their last nine series vs. St. Louis, the Reds are 1-8, with the only winning series being a four-game set Sept. 2-5 last season.
Last week at Great American Ball Park, the Cardinals took two of three games, but all of the games were decided by one run.
In 30 series at St. Louis since 2003, the Reds have gone 3-25-2, with the last series win coming in September 2011.
Cardinals: Hall of Fame opening highlights home opener
Ballpark Village opened its doors for business late last month, but Monday will be the first opportunity for fans to wander the exhibits at the Cardinals' Hall of Fame and Museum. Housed inside Ballpark Village, the Hall of Fame and Museum will open following a 10 a.m. CT dedication ceremony. Outside, the Cardinals will host a free pep rally for fans from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Gates to Busch Stadium will open at 1:15 pm, two hours before the scheduled first pitch. The franchise's Hall of Famers and 2014 Cardinals will be introduced via motorcade, and the famed Budweiser Clydesdales will also be circling the park pregame. Among those to be recognized will be Tony La Russa, recently elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
After the NL Championship banner is raised, the pregame ceremonies will conclude with Chris Carpenter throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. Carpenter is now a member of the Cardinals' front office, after injuries forced him to end his pitching career.
"I think any Opening Day is a big deal -- at home or on the road," Matheny said. "But the home opener is special because you have a different angle, you have a different fan base. You have a group that is very excited for us to get back there. With all the excitement and the tradition that goes along with how St. Louis has always done it makes it a little different. There's nothing like being at home for the first time."
• Billy Hamilton, who did not start any of the three Reds' games against the Mets, could return to the lineup on Monday. Hamilton missed the last two games because of jammed left middle finger.
The Reds could also be getting catcher Devin Mesoraco back from the disabled list on Monday. Mesoraco, who strained his left oblique during Spring Training, played three games on a rehab assignment for Double-A Pensacola.
• The Cardinals and Reds endured six hours and 22 minutes of rain delays during a three-game series in Cincinnati last week. They may be dealing with similar conditions again in St. Louis. As of Sunday afternoon, the forecast calls for an 80-percent chance of rain on Monday.