It’s back. All of it. It’s all back!
The Chicago Cubs tonight head to St. Louis to open up a three-game set against the Cardinals, kicking off the 2017 season. Of particular note – and some people forget this – the Cubs are the reigning World Series Champions, making their return to action tonight in the stomping grounds of their chief rival all the more delicious.
Jon Lester takes the ball for the Cubs to get things going, as he did two years ago when the Cubs opened up on Sunday night against the Cardinals at Wrigley Field. He did not pitch poorly in that one, but the game did not go the Cubs’ way.
Fresh off a Cy-Young-caliber season, Lester has pitched as well with the Cubs as he has during just about any other two-year stretch of his career. May that continue on into year three, starting tonight, and with a new catcher, Willson Contreras.
You can expect that relationship to be a developing one, and you can also expect the Cardinals to test the two early with games on the bases, and maybe a bunt or two. Contreras is a freakishly good athlete, and Lester is generally very good at knowing when to lay off a ball. We’ll see. A hiccup or two in the first few starts of the year is probably something to brace yourself for.
Lester is a tough pitcher to face for any batter, but he was especially brutal on lefties last year (.237 wOBA against). Righties didn’t fare well either (.272), but there was a noticeable split. For his career, Lester – with a diverse pitch mix and impeccable command – does not have an especially pronounced split. I mention all of this because he’ll face just one lefty tonight, Matt Carpenter.
Meanwhile, it’s Carlos Martinez on the other side of the bump (he of the pronounced splits, for what it’s worth), fresh off a high-octane performance in the WBC. He was hitting 99-100mph in those games, so we’ll see if he’s still throwing darts tonight, and if he can command them.
Oh, and there’s that other thing tonight …
— Mark Grote (@markgrotesports) April 2, 2017
Chicago Cubs (0-0) at St. Louis Cardinals (0-0) – 7:35 CT on ESPN, 670 The Score
Game Thread and Series Preview
Your game thread is down in the comments, so let’s have some good, clean (safe-for-work) fun this evening.
Cubs: Jon Lester (L): 2.44 ERA, 3.41 FIP, 3.47 xFIP; 3.79 K/BB (2016)
Cardinals: Carlos Martinez (R): 3.04 ERA, 3.61 FIP, 3.81 xFIP; 2.49 K/BB (2016)
St. Louis Cardinals Lineup:
- Dexter Fowler, CF
- Aledmys Diaz, SS
- Matt Carpenter, 1B
- Jhonny Peralta, 3B
- Yadier Molina, C
- Stephen Piscotty, RF
- Jedd Gyorko, SS
- Randal Grichuk, LF
- Carlos Martinez, P
Chicago Cubs Lineup:
- Kyle Schwarber, LF
- Kris Bryant, 3B
- Anthony Rizzo, 1B
- Ben Zobrist, RF
- Addison Russell, SS
- Jason Heyward, CF
- Willson Contreras, C
- Jon Lester, P
- Javy Baez, 2B