Another winter is in the books, and it is now time to begin weaving through the many chapters of a fresh baseball season. The new story opens today in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where the Cardinals will open the 2019 regular season against the rivaled Brewers at Miller Park with a four-game series.
Opening Day (and, frankly, the entire series) always presents fine pitching matchups around the sport. If you’re a fan of pitchers’ duels around the league, this is your time to thrive. In the first game of the four-game series between the Cardinals and Brewers on Thursday, Jhoulys Chacin will start for Milwaukee at 1:10 PM Central Time. Chacin started an MLB-best 35 games last year, topping former Astros teammates Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel, who started 34 games apiece. Despite a 0.84 HR/9 that was his lowest out of the past five seasons, Chacin had a 35.7 fly ball percentage in 2018 - his highest since he pitched for the Rockies back in 2012. Nonetheless, Chacin led the Brewers with 192 2⁄3 innings, 156 strikeouts, and a 1.16 WHIP last and appears to be worth the two-year, $15 million deal he inked back in the 2017-18 offseason.
Miles Mikolas will start for the Cardinals on Thursday. St. Louis must have been pleased with how Mikolas performed in 2018, rewarding him with a four-year, $68 million contract extension over the winter to keep him in red through 2023. In his first season back in the Majors after spending time in the Japanese Leagues, Mikolas led the Cardinals with a 3.28 FIP in 200 2⁄3 innings of moundwork. Mikolas was one of just 14 pitchers to reach the 200-inning plateau last season and the only one in the National League Central division.
You may remember something Mikolas did in the first meeting between these teams in 2018..
On Friday night, Freddy Peralta will start against Jack Flaherty at 7:10. The 22-year-old Peralta flip-flopped between Triple-A and the Majors last season, accumulating 78 1⁄3 innings across 16 games (14 starts) for the Brewers in his rookie season. Peralta fanned 96 batters and limited his opponents to a .178 batting average. Daniel Epstein of Beyond the Box Score said of Peralta:
Flaherty, also a rookie in 2018, turned in 28 starts for the Cardinals. With a 10.85 K/9 that ranked fifth-highest in the National League and stemmed from a team-high 182 strikeouts, Flaherty’s name floated around the Rookie of the Year conversations. Out of his 28 starts, 10 were quality, and he is in line to start the home opener in St. Louis a week from today.
Saturday’s ballgame will feature Brandon Woodruff and Dakota Hudson at 6:10 PM. Woodruff worked primarily as a reliever for Milwaukee last season, starting in just four of his 19 appearances. Woodruff had a 47:14 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 42 1⁄3 innings of work and (like the aforementioned Peralta) often traveled between Triple-A and the Majors to accommodate whatever pitching plans the Brewers had in mind.
Hudson, a first-round pick of the Cardinals in the 2016 draft, made his MLB debut in late July last year. The 24-year-old Hudson appeared in 26 games out of the bullpen down the stretch, so Saturday will be the first start of Hudson’s career. With a 2.63 ERA in 27 1⁄3 innings in 2018, the Cardinals had their eye on Hudson for a spot in the bullpen. But, with Carlos Martinez sidelined with a rotator cuff issue, Hudson is getting his shot in the starting rotation.
The series finale on Sunday is a 1:10 PM start and is set to have Corbin Burnes and Michael Wacha on the mound. Another young Brewers arm, the 24-year-old Burnes worked in 30 games as reliever in his rookie season last year. Burnes recorded 35 strikeouts in his 38 innings of work and surrendered only four home runs. Burnes was named as a Baseball America Minor League All-Star in 2017 and will be making the first start of his career.
This will be the start of Wacha’s seventh season in the Majors. In 15 games and starts in 2018, Wacha limited batters to a .646 OPS; this is the lowest mark he has maintained in the past four seasons. For Wacha, the 2019 campaign will be about staying healthy. Wacha was out from mid-June on last season with a left oblique strain.
So, to recap:
Thursday, 3/28, 1:10 | Chacin v Mikolas | Fox Sports Midwest, KMOX, CRN
Friday, 3/29, 7:10 | Peralta v Flaherty | Fox Sports Midwest, MLB Network, KMOX, CRN
Saturday, 3/30, 6:10 | Woodruff v Hudson | Fox Sports Midwest, KMOX, CRN
Sunday, 3/31, 1:10 | Burnes v Wacha | Fox Sports Midwest, KMOX, CRN
Video is credited to the official Major League Baseball YouTube channel.