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Free Pick April 5th – Marlins at Reds

Miami Marlins +129 at Cincinnati Reds -139  (TOTAL: 7.5)

Mark Buehrle (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Johnny Cueto(0-0, 0.00 ERA)

It doesn’t get much better than Opening Day in Major League Baseball.  Especially for those of us college hoop fans feeling lonely since the tournament swept in and just as abruptly, swept out, of our lives, the start of baseball is a wonderful fill for the sporting void.  In addition, not many other days of the regular season serve up as many prime pitching matchups as we are privy to today.

In Detroit reigning Cy Young winner and AL MVP Justin Verlander squares off against Boston’s John Lester.  In Chicago Stephen Strausburg makes his return from Tommy John surgery against the Cubs.   And in New York Johan Santana makes his anticipated return against young Atlanta blossoming star Tommy Hanson.  It’s going to be a great way to start the MLB season.

When it comes to pageantry and excitement, no city does it better (or has done it longer) than Cincinnati.  The annual parade (Grand Marshalled by Aaron “freaking” Boone) storms through the city this morning, then it will be time to kick off baseball just as they have since 1869 in Reds Country.

The pitching matchup isn’t as glamorous as the Boston v Detroit gem, but it is still an excellent one.  Johnny Cueto gets the ball for the Reds, fresh off a season where he emerged from “young pitcher with tantalizing talent” to “legit Cy Young contender.”  Cueto missed a little over a month with injury, but still posted a 2.34 ERA and recorded 104 strikeouts.  If healthy, he is expected to anchor a deep pitching staff expected to contend for the NL Central crown.

For Miami, gone is the pomp and circumstance of last night’s unveiling of Marlins Park – and for Miami hopefully some of the jitters that likely accompanied the debut.  The Marlins didn’t scratch their first hit until the 7th inning.  No offense to St. Louis’s Kyle Lohse, but he wasn’t dealing “no-hit stuff” last night.  It’s a bit of an odd circumstance to have a night game as a one-game “series” and then fly out to play a day road game the next day, but alas, that is how 2012 starts for the Fish.  Working in their favor is the first National League start for long-time White Sox Mark Buehrle.  Buehrle has been good against the Reds in their two previous meetings, going 2-0 with a 0.60 ERA.

However, this is a Reds lineup that has matured nicely since the interleague meetings several years ago.  Left handed pitching was long their nemesis, but with the growth of Votto and Bruce is has actually become a relative strength of the Reds.  I expect the jubilant sell-out crowd to be strong today, and I like the Reds to get a solid outing out of Cueto and to scratch out 3 or 4 runs against Buehrle.  That should be enough to get yet another Opening Day win.

Free Pick: Cincinnati Reds -139