04/04/2012 06:32 PM
St. Louis Cardinals Open 2012 Campaign At Miami Marlins
Apr 04, 2012
A lot has changed since the last time the St. Louis Cardinals faced the Miami Marlins in early August.
St. Louis made the playoffs and won the World Series. Manager Tony LaRussa retired. So did pitching coach Dave Duncan. Albert Pujols left the Redbirds for the Angels. Chris Carpenter injured his neck in spring training, causing weakness in his shoulder, and opens the 2012 season on the DL.
And that’s just a few of the changes regarding the Cardinals.
How about for the host Marlins? New team name (out goes Florida, in comes Miami). New uniforms. New, sparkling stadium with a rolling roof (which will come in handy in this locale). New manager in Ozzie Guillen. Lots of new players on the roster, including the new expected catalyst in the lineup, SS Jose Reyes (via the Mets). New energy and philosophy for a once-frugal organization.
They couldn’t pick a better opener for the 2012 NL campaign, if you ask us.
They start playing for keeps on Wednesday night in the sparkling new Marlins Stadium, which was officially christened this past weekend when the Yankees were in town for two exhibition dates. First pitch will be at 7:05 p.m. (ET), with TV coverage provided by ESPN.
A pair of righties, the Cards’ well-traveled Kyle Lohse and the Marlins’ injury-repaired Josh Johnson, will be on the mound. An early check of the Don Best odds screen notes than Johnson and the Marlins are a significant favorite, priced at -175 on the win, with the take-back on Lohse and the Redbirds at +155. The Run Line provides better price value on Miami, which gets a +130 when laying the run, while St. Louis is -150, plus the extra digit. The total is 7-under (-115) at the majority of Las Vegas wagering outlets.
Lohse didn’t fare too well in a pair of starts last season vs. the pre-Ozzie Marlins, allowing eight runs (all earned) and 13 hits in 11 IP over the two starts. As has been his career pattern, however, Lohse did pitch well last April, fashioning a 4-1 mark with a 1.64 ERA and 0.73 WHIP.
Meanwhile, the Marlins’ Johnson is looking to recover from an injury-shortened 2011 campaign that ended for him in mid-May due to shoulder problems. At that point, Johnson appeared well on his way to the All-Star game, having posted a 1.64 ERA and 0.98 WHIP while fashioning a 3-1 record. Johnson did, however, suffer his only loss of his abbreviated 2011 stint at St. Louis on May 5 when allowing five runs and eight hits over 7 1/3 IP in an eventual 6-3 loss.
Over his seven-year career, however, Johnson has not been overwhelming vs. the Redbirds, winning just once in five starts while posting a 3.60 ERA.
Of course, the dynamics are different for these squads than at any time in recent years. Expectations were not this high in Miami even before the Marlins’ World Series years in 1997 and 2003. A healthy Johnson, along with ex-White Sox ace Mark Buehrle, anchor a potentially-dominating rotation, while the addition of ex-Padre Heath Bell via free agency has provided Ozzie with a top-notch closer.
It’s the addition of SS Reyes, however, that has South Florida abuzz, and the possibility that he could be the perfect table-setter for an offense that will put more pressure on opponents on the basepaths with Reyes’ presence along with underrated CF Emilio Bonifacio, who stole 40 bases a year ago.
All eyes in Miami will nonetheless be on the mercurial Hanley Ramirez, moved from SS to 3B due to Reyes’ arrival. Ramirez, whose effort and demeanor have come under scrutiny in the past, seemed to enjoy his new position in spring and has developed quite a friendship with Reyes, both even dying their hair a new shade of “Marlins orange” in spring. Most observers believe that Guillen is also adept at pushing the right buttons and is likely going to be a big bonus for Ramirez this season.
Despite their World Series crown last fall, the Cards nonetheless seem to be flying a bit under the radar this spring. Staff ace Carpenter, who would have been expected to get the opening-day assignment, remains on the shelf, and remains a potential concern in St. Louis. New skipper Mike Matheny does, however, have a healthy Adam Wainwright after the big righty missed all of 2011 with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. Wainwright likely waits until this weekend at Milwaukee to make his 2012 debut.
The Cardinals are still cautiously optimistic that their offense can produce runs even minus Pujols. Lance Berkman, moved to RF last year because of Pujols’ presence, is back to his more-comfy position at 1B, and newly-added OF Carlos Beltran is not the worst replacement for Pujols in the batting order. Matt Holliday is also capable of carrying an offense. Moreover, Matheny is hoping that postseason heroes such as 3B David Freese and C Yadier Molina pick up where they left off.
NL Central sources also suggest the re-signing of SS Rafael Furcal was an underrated development in the offseason. A shaky St. Louis infield defense was strengthened significantly by Furcal’s trade deadline addition from the Dodgers late in July and proved to be a key development in the Cards’ late-season charge to the playoffs and eventual postseason glory.
Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs: