While today is not officially being dubbed Opening Day 2017, it is the first game of the MLB season for a few teams including the world champion Chicago Cubs. The Cubs will begin their title defense tonight when they take on the St. Louis Cardinals from Busch Stadium in St Louis, Missouri.
CBS Sports indicates that right out of the gate this game will have a playoff feel to it as two of the best pitchers in the game will battle it out in Game 1 of the 162 game schedule. The Chicago Cubs will send Jon Lester to the hill tonight and the hometown St. Louis Cardinals will counter with Carlos Martinez.
Lester will be making his second Opening Day start for the Chicago Cubs since leaving the Boston Red Sox and heading to Chi-town. Lester hopes to continue where he left off last season when he finished second in the Cy-Young voting, posted a 19-5 record and had an incredible 2.44 ERA.
On the other side, St. Louis will send Carlos Martinez to the bump to try to slow down the Cubs’ big bats. Martinez led all starting St. Louis pitchers in 2016 with 20 quality starts and a 3.04 ERA. In a bit of trivia, Martinez will also be the first Dominican-born pitcher since the great Joaquin Andujar to start for the Cardinals on Opening Day.
St. Louis Manager Mike Matheny opted to go with Carlos Martinez even though he has’t faired all that well vs. the Cubs so far in his early career. Martinez is 3-3 with a 4.67 earned run average in 19 games against the Cubbies.
Today is special for both of these teams, especially considering their rich histories, however, for the first time in a century, the Chicago Cubs will take the field as the defending World Series champions. Somewhere Marty McFly is telling people he knew this day would come.
“We’re finally to that day,” Chicago Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks told mlb.com after Friday’s 6-3 exhibition win in Houston. “You feel it building up, you feel it coming, you see a light at the end of the tunnel. But now, being the last day, flying to St. Louis, you feel it coming.”
The scheduling gods couldn’t have set up tonight’s game any better, as two dominate teams square off in historic St. Louis in front of what should be one of the biggest crowds in Busch Stadium history.
One thing will look a dramatically different for the Cubs when they hit the field tonight in St. Louis. They will now be facing one of their best hitters instead of having him on their side.
Last season the Chicago Cubs were set up nicely by their leadoff man Dexter Fowler. This season Fowler will be on the opponents side, and it will be interesting to see how much the Cubs miss his hitting and speed at the top of the order as the season progresses.
The Cubs’ leadoff man the last two years, Fowler now brings his abilities to St. Louis where Cardinals’ fans are hoping that he could be the X-Factor that helps them out duel the Chicago in the chase for the National League Central division title. If anyone in St. Louis knows what the Cubs like and don’t like to do on the field, it’s Fowler. Besides his bat, Fowler’s knowledge will be helpful for the Cardinals when they face the Cubs this season.
Fan can catch all of MLB’s opening night Chicago Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals coverage live nationally on ESPN. If you are on the go, you can catch every pitch live on your tablet or cell phone through Watch ESPN. First pitch for tonight’s game is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. ET.
[Featured Image by Christian Petersen/Getty Images]