ST. LOUIS -- Visiting Cincinnati did most of the threatening on Monday, putting at least one runner on base in every inning but one, advancing five of them into scoring position through the first five, and bringing the go-ahead run to the plate against the Cardinals' best reliever in the ninth.
It was the Cardinals, however, who tallied the big hits in their home opener.
The biggest of those came early, as Yadier Molina energized a sellout crowd with a first-inning, bases-clearing double off lefty Tony Cingrani. Despite all of the Reds' activity on the basepaths thereafter, Cincinnati never could catch up. Their lead later padded by some necessary insurance scoring in the seventh, the Cardinals treated the largest crowd (47,492) in Busch Stadium III history to a 5-3 victory.
"Huge crowd out there today, a lot of energy," winning pitcher Michael Wacha said afterward. "It's a lot of fun pitching in front of your home crowd, 40,000-plus of your home fans in there. I don't know who wouldn't thrive off those kinds of situations."
Those fans showed up early on Monday to enjoy the festivities that perennially precede the club's home opener. Last year, the Reds spoiled this day with a blowout win. Stingy pitching, particularly from Wacha, prevented such a repeat.
"He was good enough to get the win," Molina said. "The location wasn't that great, but he kept us in the game. ... This kid can control himself. There isn't anything that bothers him."
Wacha extended his career scoreless-innings streak against the Reds to 21 before allowing consecutive one-out doubles in the fifth. He minimized the damage there and went on to finish six innings while collecting his first win of the season. He threw just 82 pitches, but the stress throughout the effort was high.
Cincinnati's leadoff hitter reached in each of his first four innings. A pair of double plays helped thwart threats, as did two timely ground balls in the first inning after the speedy Billy Hamilton moved to third with one out and was caught in a rundown between third and home. Twice Wacha stranded runners at third by retiring Brandon Phillips.
"I felt good out there, though the command wasn't where I wanted it to be," Wacha said. "I felt like I was throwing out of the stretch the whole game today. There's definitely stuff I need to improve on with the command of my pitches and throw more strikes."
"He did a nice job of managing the baserunners," added Cincinnati manager Bryan Price." He used that overhand curveball a little bit more that we didn't see a great deal of in Cincinnati, and using his changeup."
The Cardinals gave their young right-hander some wiggle room with early offense against a pitcher they couldn't crack a week ago. Cingrani, 3-0 with a career 2.50 ERA against the Cardinals coming into the start, labored from the get-go.
After a leadoff single by Matt Carpenter, Peter Bourjos snapped an 0-for-13 start by dropping a single to center. Manager Mike Matheny had hoped to spark his center fielder's bat by moving him into the No. 2 hole for the first time this year.
It was the first of two hits Bourjos would have in five at-bats.
"It's nice to get one to fall in," Bourjos said. "And hopefully I can build from here and have some better at-bats."
"I think that first one just took a ton of weight off his shoulders," Matheny added. "Especially with a new team, for Peter to get going a little offensively, it's exactly what we were hoping for today."
Matt Holliday loaded the bases with a walk and, after Allen Craig went down swinging, Molina sent his three teammates home with a double to left. It was the second time in eight days that the Reds had been stung by Molina. His home run in Cincinnati on Opening Day was the only run scored that afternoon.
Molina is the early team leader with six RBIs.
"We had a huge momentum shift in the first, getting Hamilton on third base and being able to get out of that," Matheny said. "It could have been just as effective the opposite way if we don't get a run in, let alone Yadi coming up with a big hit to score three."
Cingrani lasted only three more innings and threw 88 pitches in total. The Cardinals then pounced on reliever Trevor Bell in the seventh, scoring twice on RBI hits by Holliday and Craig. Bourjos was in the middle of that rally, too, sparking it by skipping a double over a drawn-in Todd Frazier at third.
For Craig, the RBI hit snapped an 0-for-14 slide.
"That felt good," Craig said. "I'm just glad I could get back to my swing right there and drive in a run and get things going. The timing's a little off, but I continue to work on stuff as I always do. Things are going to turn around."
After an opportunity to pinch-hit for Wacha in the sixth led Matheny to pull the right-hander earlier than he normally would, he turned to his most trusted three relievers to close it. Carlos Martinez recorded five outs. Kevin Siegrist closed the eighth by retiring the left-handed-hitting Joey Votto.
Though there was no save situation, Matheny called upon Trevor Rosenthal -- who hadn't pitched since Thursday -- to cover the ninth. Rosenthal ended up working a little harder than desired. He walked two, and a pair of hits pulled Cincinnati closer. Rosenthal eventually closed the win by getting Hamilton, who represented the potential go-ahead run, to fly out on Rosenthal's 27th pitch.
"I was getting behind hitters and not getting ahead of them," Rosenthal said. "I had to make some pitches over the plate, and they kind of made me pay for it. I felt good, though. The focus was there, and I'll just keep moving along."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.