After an off-season full of nothing but excitement after the signings of new skipper Joe Maddon, southpaw ace Jon Lester and acquiring catcher Miguel Montero, it’s time for the 2015 Chicago Cubs to get to work.
First up, hosting the St. Louis Cardinals on Opening Night at Wrigley Field. Although Wrigley is still undergoing a major face-lift, it’s not going to stop fans from packing the house in hopes of finally reaching the post-season for the first time since the 2008 season. There’s a ton of expectations from this fan base and the organization itself as it appears Theo Epstein’s master plan is finally coming to life.
More from Chicago Cubs News
- Cubs should keep close eye on non-tender candidate Cody Bellinger
- Cubs starting pitching has been thriving on the North Side
- Make no mistake: the Cubs are very much about power hitters
- Cubs: It’s time to start thinking about potential September call-ups
- Cubs: P.J. Higgins deserves to be in the lineup on a daily basis
Taking the mound tomorrow will be two-time World Series champion, Jon Lester. Lester (0-0, 0.00 ERA) made a couple of appearances during Cactus League play for the Cubs but missed most of Spring Training after experiencing ‘dead arm’ during a nightmarish outing against Matt Kemp and the new look San Diego Padres.
In those three Spring Training starts, Lester finished with an ERA of 6.48, allowing six earned runs on 11 hits while posting a 9/1 K/BB ratio. He’s coming off a season in which he was traded from the Boston Red Sox to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for slugger Yoenis Cespedes.
Lester carried his terrific performance from Boston over to the West Coast, picking up 11 more starts. Prior to being eliminated in the Wild Card playoff against the Kansas City Royals, the 31-year-old finished the regular season with a combined record of 16-11 behind 32 starts – posting a 2.46 ERA and a 220/48 K/BB ratio through 219 2/3 frames.
Prior to being eliminated in the Wild Card playoff against the Kansas City Royals, the 31-year-old finished the regular season with a combined record of 16-11 behind 32 starts – posting a 2.46 ERA and a 220/48 K/BB ratio through 219 2/3 frames.
Leading the way for the rest of the lineup will be first baseman Anthony Rizzo. Rizzo, 25, is coming off a huge year in which he once led the National League in home runs. Despite missing some time due to injury, Epstein’s original rebuilding piece finished the season with a career-high 32 home runs, 78 runs batted in and 28 doubles with a batting line of .286/.386/.527 in 524 at-bats.
He did struggle during Spring Training, finishing with only two long-balls and nine RBI with a weak line of .172/.250/.328. Nonetheless, Rizzo is expected to compete for N.L. MVP honors with Miami Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton in 2015.
Another huge pick-up by the Cubs was center fielder Dexter Fowler. Back in January, Fowler was acquired by the Cubs in a package deal that included third baseman Luis Valbuena and pitcher Dan Straily.
Chicago was looking to add a solid veteran in the outfield with a group of young guys that features Jorge Soler. Fowler, 29, was once a key member of the Colorado Rockies outfield from 2009 up until he was traded to the Houston Astros after the 2013 campaign.
Now although the Cubs made some serious noise over the winter, the St. Louis Cardinals are still a dangerous team in not only the N.L. Central, but the entire league itself. They made a huge trade with the Atlanta Braves, picking up right fielder Jason Heyward to add another powerful bat to compliment Matt Holliday.
Starting opposite of Lester will be future Hall of Fame pitcher, Adam Wainwright. Wainwright (0-0, 0.00 ERA) is coming off a shaky spring in which he picked up only three starts himself. In those three contests, the Cardinals’ ace worked 14 1/3 innings – giving up 18 hits, six runs (five earned), 7/3 K/BB ratio and finished with a 3.14 ERA.
Before leading the St. Louis Cardinals to yet another National League Championship appearance against the San Francisco Giants last season, Wainwright finished with a career-best 20-9 record. In one of his best seasons yet, the veteran right-hander finished the year with five complete games and three shutouts while posting a 2.38 ERA, 179/50 K/BB ratio, and 1.03 WHIP in 227 innings.
Here’s a look at tonight’s starting lineups for both clubs:
Tonight’s first pitch is scheduled for 7:05 pm central time and will be aired live on ESPN.