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Know Your Enemy: St. Louis Cardinals

The annual series on Cubs opponents returns for 2017.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Recently, the Cardinals lost prize pitching prospect Alex Reyes to Tommy John surgery. He’ll miss the entire 2017 season.

I’ll wait while you commiserate with Cardinals fans.

There! That didn’t take long, did it?

I don’t like seeing players go down with injuries, but I’m certainly not unhappy that the Cardinals pitching staff won’t be as good as it might have been.

The Cubs finished 17½ games ahead of the Cardinals in 2016. This is something that’s not likely to repeat. That’s a margin of victory in the division race that’s very, very rare. The Cardinals always seem to figure out a way to sprinkle magic pixie dust around and win. It didn’t work for them in 2016 as they finished one game out of the wild-card game.

The biggest addition to the Cardinals roster, or at least the one we’ll notice most, is Dexter Fowler. He signed a four-year deal with St. Louis and I, for one, wish he’d gone elsewhere. But we’ll now see him many times this year as a division rival. As a Cubs World Series champion (and key contributor to that), he’ll certainly receive an ovation from Cubs fans in St. Louis for Opening Night, and when the Cardinals first play at Wrigley this year, which won’t be until June 2.

After that, I hope he does well — except when he’s playing against the Cubs.

Otherwise the key changes for the Cardinals include Matt Carpenter moving to first base and Jhonny Peralta to third. Peralta missed much of 2016 with injuries and Aledmys Diaz did a fine job replacing him. Diaz returns at shortstop and the Cardinals are going to try Kolten Wong again at second base. Wong hit just .240/.327/355 last year, was moved to the outfield, and even was briefly sent to Triple-A. Jedd Gyorko, who hit 30 homers last year, backs up multiple infield positions.

The Cardinals will try a number of people to replace Reyes in the rotation, most likely Michael Wacha and Luke Weaver will battle it out for that spot. Lance Lynn missed all of last year, but he’ll return to the rotation along with Adam Wainwright, Carlos Martinez and Mike Leake.

Then there’s Yadi, always there, so it seems, though he’s now 34 and the Cardinals are going to have to think about replacing him soon. Apparently they think otherwise, as they are in discussions with him for a contract extension.

And there’s manager Mike Matheny, now in his sixth season, the manager Cardinals fans love to hate.

They’ll be contenders, no doubt. Somehow they always are. Even last year when the Cubs were crushing most everyone else, they went just 10-9 against St. Louis.

As noted, the Cubs open the season with a three-game series in St. Louis (April 2-4-5), three of the 19 games the teams will play this year. Other Cubs/Cardinals series in 2017:

May 12-13-14 in St. Louis
June 2-3-4 at Wrigley
July 21-22-23 at Wrigley
September 15-16-17 at Wrigley
September 25-26-27-28 at St. Louis