ON THE ROAD TO ST. LOUIS — The Cubs and Cardinals, one of baseball’s oldest and best rivalries. It’s always fun to face these guys, and especially nice with the Cubs being defending World Series champions.
I asked John Fleming of our SB Nation Cardinals site Viva el Birdos to tell us a bit about his team as we begin the 2017 season.
Rather than trying to make big, splashy moves to put their team on equal footing with the Chicago Cubs entering the 2017 season, the St. Louis Cardinals front office instead opted for an approach of making lots of incremental improvements.
The big acquisition for the Cardinals last off-season was the signing of ex-Cub Dexter Fowler to play center field, a move expected not only to improve the Cardinals' ability to reach base, but also to improve the club's outfield defense, as incumbent center fielder Randal Grichuk will now replace the relatively immobile Matt Holliday in left.
Additionally, the Cardinals bolstered their bullpen by adding Blue Jays lefty Brett Cecil; this move, in addition to the return of starter Lance Lynn after missing 2016 recovering from Tommy John surgery, should allow the Cardinals to avoid digging as deep into their bullpen as they were forced to do last season. The season-ending injury to Alex Reyes hurts the pitching's upside, but if pitchers who struggled last year, such as Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha, are able to regain form they've shown in the past, the staff should remain formidable.
It would take many breaks for the Cardinals to pass the Cubs for a 2017 NL Central title, but the Cardinals remain a legitimate Wild Card threat and a formidable opponent which no team should relish facing. A sweep is unlikely, with the Cardinals' home-field advantage being enough for me to give a microscopic edge to the Cardinals this week, although the Cubs remain favorites to win the overall season series.
This is the first time the Cubs have opened the regular season in St. Louis in 31 years. The Cubs lost the season opener at old Busch Stadium 2-1 on April 8, 1986. There have been three Cubs/Cardinals season openers at Wrigley since then, in 1987, 1991 and 2015.
Pitching matchups (2016 statistics)
Sunday: Jon Lester (19-5, 2.44 ERA, 1.016 WHIP, 3.41 FIP) vs. Carlos Martinez (16-9, 3.04 ERA, 1.224 WHIP, 3.61 FIP)
Tuesday: Jake Arrieta (18-8, 3.10 ERA, 1.084 WHIP, 3.52 FIP) vs. Adam Wainwright (13-9, 4.62 ERA, 1.404 WHIP, 3.93 FIP)
Wednesday: John Lackey (11-8, 3.35 ERA, 1.057 WHIP, 3.81 FIP) vs. Lance Lynn (Lynn did not pitch in 2016. Cardinals website says “TBD” but it’s likely going to be Lynn.)
Times & TV channels
Sunday: 7:35 p.m. CT, ESPN
Tuesday: 7:15 p.m. CT, CSN Chicago Plus, MLB Network
Wednesday: 12:45 p.m. CT, WGN, MLB Network
Playing the Cardinals is always tough, no matter where the teams are in the standings. I’d love to say the Cubs will begin 2017 with a sweep of their rivals, but I think I’ll stick with two of three.
The Cubs are off Thursday and then head to Milwaukee for a three-game set against the Brewers which begins Friday night.
How many games will the Cubs win against the Cardinals?
This poll is closed