The road to the NL Central crown often travels through St. Louis where the Cardinals have won three consecutive titles since the Reds won the division back in 2012.
St. Louis (100-62, 1st in NL Central)
Key Additions:Mike Leake, Jedd Gyorko, Brayan Pena, Ruben Tejada
Key Departures:Jason Heyward, Jon Jay, John Lackey,Carlos Villanueva, Mark Reynolds, Steve Cishek, Peter Bourjos, Tony Cruz, Pete Kozma, Dan Johnson, Randy Choate,
Reds Dates:@STL April 15-17, Aug 8-10, Sept 26-29 CIN-June 7-9, Aug. 2-4,Sept 2-4
Things were looking good for Mike Matheny and the Cardinals last season as they rolled through 2015 with the best record in all of baseball and were poised for another World Series run. That’s when they’re hated rival, the Chicago Cubs, rode their youth movement past the playoff tested Cardinals. Matheny now enters his fifth season and has yet to finish below second place with last season’s exit in the NLDS their worst finish under Matheny. He led the clubs to a World Series appearance in 2013 when they lost to the Red Sox. He’s also has never lost a season series against the Reds who last bested the Cardinals in 2011.
Their are plenty of familiar faces that are returning to the lineup in St. Louis. Adam Wainwright returns to start his fifth Opening Day with his longtime battery mate, Yadier Molina, bringing his Gold Glove behind the plate. Michael Wacha, Jaime Garcia, and Carlos Martinez already made up a great rotation, but with Lance Lynn out for the season after Tommy John Surgery, the Cardinals needed a fifth starter. That’s when they grabbed former Red Mike Leake, who became a free agent after his three months in San Francisco. Leake won 62 games for Cincinnati in his six seasons and also has six career homers with a .212 average making him a perfect candidate to for the Cardinals who love to hit their pitchers in the eight spot.
There’s a chance when Leake is on the mound that he could be throwing to a familiar man behind the mask in Brayan Pena, who signed with the Cardinals in the off-season. Pena played in over 100 games in both seasons with the Reds, a feat he had not accomplished in his nine previous seasons. He also showed that he can play first base, after filling in for an injured Joey Votto in 2014.
Injuries have already had a big impact on the Redbirds as they are proving to be thin at the shortstop position. Jhonny Peralta injured his thumb during spring training and will be out 2-3 months leaving the Cardinals scrambling for help. They signed former Met Ruben Tejada to help, but he also injured himself during spring training essentially giving the job to former Padres shortstop Jedd Gyorko. Greg Garcia will also get some time at the position.
The Cardinals don’t seem to be affected by the loss of Jason Heyward, although they probably would have preferred he didn’t join the Cubs. Instead they’ll showcase the very talented outfield of Matt Holliday, Randal Grichuk, and Stephen Piscotty. Grichuk and Piscotty will both get a chance to play a full season and build off their strong 2015 season’s while Holliday is just hoping to stay healthy. The Cardinals are experimenting with a way to do that, by having him get work in at first base with the possibility of spelling Matt Adams or Brandon Moss. Holliday enters his 13th season and is a career .307 with 275 homers. Although his power have slightly declined, he is still a master of taking pitches to the opposite field.
The Reds and Cardinals will meet in St. Louis in mid April, but Reds fans won’t be treated to their favorite team to hate until the beginning of June. Cincinnati will likely see Martinez, Wainwright, and Wacha when they head to St. Louis. Wainwright will look to turn his fortune around against the Reds this season as they are the only NL Central opponent he does not having a winning record against. Here’s what the Cardinals should look like when they face the Reds (as of 4/1).
Starting Rotation (2015 stats):
1. Adam Wainwright (2-1, 1.61 ERA)
2. Michael Wacha (17-7, 3.38 ERA, All-Star)
3. Mike Leake (11-10, 3.70 ERA w/Reds & Giants)
4. Jaime Garcia (10-6, 2.43 ERA)
5. Carlos Martinez (14-7, 3.01 ERA, All-Star)
Closer: Trevor Rosenthal (2-4, 2.10 ERA, 48 Saves, All-Star)
C. Yadier Molina (136 Games Played, .270 avg, 4 HR, 61 RBI, Gold Glove, All-Star)
1B. Brandon Moss (145 GP, .226 avg, 19 HR, 58 RBI w/Indians & Cardinals)
2B. Kolten Wong (150 GP, .262 avg, 11 HR, 61 RBI)
3B. Matt Carpenter (154 GP, .272 avg, 28 HR, 84 RBI)
SS. Jedd Gyorko (128 GP, .247 avg, 16 HR, 57 RBI w/Padres)
LF. Matt Holliday (73 GP, .279 avg, 4 HR, 35 RBI)
CF. Randal Grichuk (103 GP, .276 avg, 17 HR, 47 RBI)
RF. Stephen Piscotty (63 GP, .305 avg, 7 HR, 39 RBI)
C. Brayan Pena
1B. Matt Adams
IF. Greg Garcia, Jhonny Peralta (All-Star, out until June), Ruben Tejada(injured)
OF. Tommy Pham, Jeremy Hazelbaker