National League Preview from The Sports Network|
Friday, April 6th
(All times Eastern)
St. Louis Cardinals (1-0) at Milwaukee Brewers (0-0), 4:10 p.m.
Probable Starting Pitchers: St. Louis - Jaime Garcia (0-0, 0.00)
Milwaukee - Yovani Gallardo (0-0, 0.00)
(Sports Network) - The Milwaukee Brewers may be coming off their first ever
National League Central crown, but they might not be considered the favorites
to repeat as division champs following the offseason exit of Prince Fielder.
The Brewers will look to make a statement this afternoon in the first of three
straight against the St. Louis Cardinals, who have already begun their World
Series defense with a victory.
Milwaukee used a franchise-record 96 wins last season to win the NL Central by
six games over St. Louis, which made it to the playoffs as a wild card. The
Brewers and Cardinals both recorded five-game series victories over the
Diamondbacks and Phillies, respectively, in the National League Division
Series before meeting in the next round.
After the clubs split 18 regular-season meetings, many of those heated
affairs, the Cardinals got past the Brewers in six games en route to their
second World Series title in six years.
Not long after St. Louis knocked off the Texas Rangers in the Fall Classic,
news broke that NL MVP Ryan Braun had tested positive for a performance
enhancing drug and was hit with a 50-game suspension. However, disaster was
avoided for the Milwaukee outfielder when the positive test was overturned due
to the handler of the test sample did not follow protocol.
As if Braun wouldn't already be entering 2012 with a chip on his shoulder,
Milwaukee's first MVP since Robin Yount in 1989 won't have his long-time
partner Fielder in the lineup with him after the bulky first baseman joined
Detroit as a free agent.
Milwaukee signed third baseman Aramis Ramirez to help fill the void left by
Fielder, while Mat Gamel takes over at first base.
The strength of the Brewers figures to be their starting rotation, a unit that
is led by a pair of talented righties in Yovani Gallardo and former American
League Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke. Manager Ron Roenicke opted to go
with Gallardo over Greinke this afternoon, giving his 26-year-old his third
straight Opening Day start.
Gallardo will become the fourth pitcher in Brewers history to make at least
three starts on Opening Day, but will have to shake off some career-long
struggles against the Cardinals to make it a successful one. He is 1-7 with a
5.66 earned run average in 11 career starts against St. Louis and that does
not include his postseason loss to the club last year in which he allowed four
runs over five innings on eight hits and five walks.
The Mexican-born hurler is coming off a banner year, having gone 17-10 with
3.52 ERA in a career-high 33 starts last season while reaching at least 200
strikeouts for a third season in a row.
Gallardo takes on a Cardinals team that opened up defense of their 11th
championship with a 4-1 win over the new-look Miami Marlins on Wednesday. St.
Louis was without manager Tony La Russa and three-time NL MVP Albert Pujols,
but it was starter Kyle Lohse who stole the show.
Lohse carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning before allowing just one run
and two hits without a walk in 7 1/3 frames of work to take the victory. Lohse
was only getting the start because Chris Carpenter opened the season on the
disabled list with a right shoulder injury.
"I'm not hugely superstitious," Lohse said of his no-hit bid. "I was talking
to guys on the bench. They might have been trying to avoid me, but I wasn't
going to let them."
Mike Matheny won his debut as Cardinals manager after taking over for the
retired La Russa, while reigning World Series MVP David Freese carried the
offense with a two-run single in the first inning. St. Louis' lineup was minus
Pujols, who signed with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim as a free agent this
Offseason addition Carlos Beltran had two hits and scored a run, while Rafael
Furcal went 3-for-5 with an RBI.
Matheny will hand the ball today to Jaime Garcia, who is entering his third
full season the major leagues. The lefty has won 13 games in each of his first
two, but saw his season ERA lift from 2.70 in 28 starts in 2010 to 3.56 in 32
outings last year.
Garcia, 25, is 3-2 with a 3.27 ERA in eight career appearances versus the
Brewers and faced them twice in last season's NLCS. He was touched for six
runs over four innings of a loss in the series opener before giving up a run
over 4 2/3 frames of a no-decision five days later.
The Cardinals will open up a span of 27 straight games against NL Central foes
with this series and won't play outside the division again until May 7 in
04/06 10:26:27 ET