After spending the majority of October not playing meaningful baseball and witnessing a group of their greatest opponents finish the 2016 campaign as champions of the sport, the Cardinals will make their long-awaited (okay, it’s been six months) return to Busch Stadium this Sunday to host the Chicago Cubs - champions of the sport - on Opening Night in a game that’ll set the tone for a season that’s sure to feature a twist on the seasoned rivalry.
The game is scheduled to start at 7:35 p.m. Central time, but the current weather outlook appears slightly intimidating; there’s still time for it to shift towards the better, but definitely keep an eye on the rainy forecast for the evening.
Assuming the baseball gods override Mother Nature for the day, the pregame ceremonies are set to begin about an hour prior to game time, around 6:30. The season-opening festivities will feature the Budweiser Clydesdales, a handful of the Cardinals’ National Baseball Hall of Fame members - Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, and Ozzie Smith, to name a few - and the introduction of the 2017 team.
These special happenings will be aired on Fox Sports Midwest and the Fox Sports GO app, allowing fans to get their taste of the action even hundreds of miles away. At the conclusion of the pregame fun, tune in to ESPN to catch the game that will be nationally broadcasted.
The game itself will feature a dreamy pitchers’ duel of Carlos Martinez and Jon Lester. Martinez earned a five-year extension this offseason and will rightfully enter the season as St. Louis’s top starter. Lester is coming off a top-three Cy Young finish and a stellar postseason run, and, with the likes of Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks in the Cubs’ loop of starters as well, getting the ball for the first game of the year certainly speaks to how important the lefty is to the Cubs’ recent (and forthcoming) success.
St. Louis will be given their first look at centerfielder Dexter Fowler, who is joining the Cardinals’ on a five-year, $82.5 million free-agent deal after spending his last two seasons on the North Side, helping the Cubs capture their first World Series title in over a century.
As for that World Series title, the Cubs will be on the defense of that, hoping to avoid a “championship hangover,” or extreme regression after performing highly. Although they did lose Fowler, Chicago still possesses probably the best batting order in the game any way it’s stacked up. Catcher-turned-outfielder Kyle Schwarber could lead off or add depth below Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, the idea of Jason Heyward batting ninth isn’t entirely out of the equation, and postseason star Javier Baez won’t even play daily. Clearly, the options are abundant.
So, to summarize:
- Opening Night between the Cubs and Cardinals will be this Sunday, April 2nd, at 7:35 p.m. at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Carlos Martinez will face off against Jon Lester.
- The current weather forecast for the game suggests rain, but that can always change.
- Pregame ceremonies begin at about 6:30 and can be seen on Fox Sports Midwest or the Fox Sports GO app.
- The game will be exclusively aired on ESPN.
Baseball is back, folks.