[“I’m already handing out MRIs like they’re candy, my friend,” says Cardinal Manager Tony “The Calculator” LaRussa,  after the Cards win over the Cubs.]

At Wrigley, the playoffs start whenever the Cardinals show up, be it April or September.  Los Tards drew first blood in not only scoring first but by putting up the “crooked numbers” La Russa loves so much, with a 7-4 win for the first skirmish of the season.  The good news was some decent hit and run production in the first and then a Fukodome 3-run HR that put the Cubs ahead.  However, Cub pitching doled out 12 hits “ 7 alone from starter Sean Marshall in his 5-innings.  Uh, how much is Jake Peavy asking?

As of this posting, the Cubs are up on St. Louis 3-0 in game 2, behind Zambrano.  Still, several sideshow notes came up that will may have some long term effects on the season.

1) Mitlon Bradley received what Gordon Wittenmyer calls his “first” ejection of 2009, on a called third strike in a bases-loaded situation that set Bradley off.  Umpires are reporting it to the league as a “contact incident.”   The Sun-Times’ Gordon Wittenmyer, who just lectured Bradley on his temper, offers up an I Told You So account of it as Bradley’s “1st explosion, ejection.”  The Trib’s Paul Sullivan leaps to the Cub’s defense here, and while I only heard the game on-line, I’m wondering just how hard the umpires came down on Bradley to send a message.  Sullivan writes:  “Replays suggest there may have been incidental contact between the bill of Bradley’s hat and Vanover’s, though it was so slight you might miss it without a slow-motion replay.”

2) Speaking of 2009 “firsts,” the easily bruised Cris Carpenter got the first of his MRIs this season and a muscle tear will keep him out 4-8 weeks.  While LaRussa’s squad has managed a concussion-free April (so far),  I hope the Cardinals have a no “American Idol” caluse in Caprenter’s contract, since this year’s competition might prove too much for him.

3) Finally, why is it the only Cub fan in politics going to jail is the Democrat?  Cheney, Paulson, Rumsfeld, Hastert “ they’re all on the street, planning to vote again. Apparently, the Federal Govt has unearthed some 2007 line-up advice from former Illinois Gov Rod “Blago” Blagojevich to Lou Piniella.  Always the populist, Blago here hopes Piniella will obey the will of the people, and bat Soriano third.  Imo, Lou’s too buddy-buddy with his investing class fans to listen.

That said, the Cardinals came into Wrigley yesterday a full game ahead of the Cubs in the Central Division.  It may seem too early to care about it, but the Cardinals will be a pain all season.  I can’t see anyone giving the Cubs as much trouble, if only for the adrenaline punch every time they play.