St. Louis Cardinals +150 @ Miami Marlins -170 (Total -7)
Kyle Lohse (0-0, 0.00) vs. Josh Johnson (0-0, 0.00)
Tonight marks the beginning of a new era in South Florida. Big changes have swept through the Florida Marlins organization. For starters, they aren’t the “Florida” Marlins anymore, opting for the more geographically-specific Miami, which seems reasonable since there is in fact another baseball team in the state of Florida. But that is far from the most significant change for an organization that is no stranger to sweeping transformations.
New skipper Ozzie Guillen finally ended his tense relationship with Kenny Williams and the Chicago White Sox and brings a major presence, both in the media room and locker room, to a young team full of talent but at times seeming to lack direction. If he is able to coax the best out of volatile shortstop ne’ third baseman Hanley Ramirez, he is worth a half-dozen wins right off the bat.
The reason for Ramirez’s move to the hot corner is the marquee addition (besides Guillen), Jose Reyes. Reyes is coming off a batting title (albeit won rather dubiously on the season’s final day) and is one of the fastest players in the league when healthy. If he can stay healthy (a fair “if”), expect him to lead the NL in triples, especially playing with the roomy corners in Marlins Park. The move makes Miami as strong as any team in the league on the left side of the infield.
And of course, they have some familiar strengths as well. Namely ace pitcher and Opening Night starter Josh Johnson. Johnson missed a significant portion of last season with injury, but when healthy appeared to be a leading candidate for the NL Cy Young Award. His microscopic 1.68 ERA might not have been sustainable all season if he remained healthy, but it provides a glimpse into how dominant he can be when going right. If his 2.42 ERA in Spring Training is any indication, he should be ready to dazzle opening the new park tonight.
St. Louis has some significant changes of their own to adapt to, though not the happy kind like in Miami. They begin life post-Albert tonight as the defending World Champs will take the field without argueably the greatest player in their storied history (no, I am not forgetting Stan Musial) for the first time in a decade. The lineup is certainly not barren, but it does place a lot of pressure on Matt Holliday to carry them in run production and demands another big year from the aging Lance Berkman.
I give the edge to the Marlins tonight on the strength of Josh Johnson over Kyle Lohse. If Carpenter was healthy, he’d be the Opening Night starter. Heck, ditto for Adam Wainwright who will miss the entire season. As it stands now, the Cards are throwing a #3 (more likely a #4 if we are being honest) against an ace opening their brand new ballpark on national television in a spotlighted ESPN game. I like the fish to show well and give the notorious front-running Miami fans a little something to get excited about.
Free Pick: Miami Marlins to WIN -170