It’s hard to believe it, but Opening Day (or Opening Night, I suppose) is finally here. The Cubs and Cardinals will get the baseball season underway tonight beneath the lights at newly-renovated Wrigley Field. Obviously there is still lots to be done to the venerable ballpark before it is complete, but it will be fun to get a glimpse of the stadium tonight on ESPN.
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Today’s Free Pick:
St. Louis Cardinals at Chicago Cubs
Adam Wainwright (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Jon Lester (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
Hopes are sky-high in Chicago. Jon Lester will make his Cubs debut and the prize left-hander was one of the biggest acquisitions by any team in the offseason. He will be asked to anchor a rotation that has its fair share of question marks after Lester. Jake Arrietta had a great 2014 and he will need to replicate it as the #2 starter if the Cubs have any chance to contend in the loaded NL Central. And while much of the attention will focus around the highly-anticipated debut of Kris Bryant, there is a ton of other young talent on this roster. Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro have already made All-Star appearances and young prospects Bryant and Jorge Soler hope to be the next to join them.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals are back and talented as usual. The tragic offseason death of prize rookie Oscar Tavares will linger, but sadness aside, the team has the depth to adapt for the loss of a future long-time cornerstone of the team. The pitching is good and has the potential to be great if Michael Wacha can regain his 2013 form and if John Lackey can give them one more good year.
The Cardinals lineup is one of the most solid in the National League from one through eight. I expect Matt Adams to take a nice step forward in his second full year as the everyday first baseman, and Koltin Wong and John Jay have continued to get better each year. Add in the always reliable (when healthy) Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina, and it is easy to see why many expect the Cards to win the Central division yet again.
Tonight’s pitching matchup is a gem, and especially this early in the season, I tend to favor the pitchers over the hitters. Wainwright and Lester both have the stuff to hold teams to one or less run every time they take the mound. Lester should be comfortable against the Redbirds, having faced most of their hitters back in the 2013 World Series and the Cardinals are 7-1 in Wainwright’s last eight starts against the Cubbies. It sounds like a classic pitcher’s duel to me, so we will kick off the 2015 season with an UNDER 7 wager.