Opening Day is finally here, and with it comes a fresh start for every organization. The Cardinals can put their playoff collapse to the Phillies last season behind them and start a new journey with a record of 0-0. With the new MLB rule changes in terms of scheduling, we have a few interleague matchups to start the season, including this one with the Blue Jays being in town. We’ll preview the game before going over my play for the action.
Young right-hander Alek Manoah will be getting the nod on Opening Day for the Blue Jays, as he finished last season with a 16-7 record and 180 strikeouts. Manoah took the win in all three of his interleague play starts last season and is a daunting pitcher to face on opening day, especially since no one in the Cardinals line-up has faced him in their MLB career.
In terms of who will be behind Manoah in the field, the Blue Jays will be led by their two young stars, Vlad Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette. The rest of Toronto’s lineup will feature a mix of returners from last season, including Alejandro Kirk, Matt Chapman, George Springer, and Whit Merrifield.
In addition to the returners, we will see the Blue Jays debut for Daulton Varsho, Brandon Belt, and Kevin Kiermaier. The Blue Jays' powerful lineup is set to face Cardinals starter Miles Mikolas this afternoon. The veteran will enter this season after going 12-13 last year with a career-high strikeout percentage of 19%.
Cardinals fans have a good reason to be excited for the team that will take the field behind him tonight, as they will get their first look in Busch Stadium of young phenom Jordan Walker. Alongside Walker will be a nice mix of exciting young players and MVP candidates in Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado.
Walker won’t be the only Cardinals player making his debut with the team today either, with former Cubs catcher Willson Contreras starting behind the dish. Contreras will usher in a new era in Cardinals baseball as they start the post Yadier Molina era. The backstop will bring an extra bit of power to a lineup that finished 9th in home runs this season, as he hit 22 home runs last year.
The Toronto Blue Jays' can be found on the moneyline at (-120), and I’ll be taking that as my play in this one. Toronto was 13-7 in interleague play and 34-23 when listed as an away favorite last season, and today they hold an advantage in the starting pitcher department with Manoah on the mound.
Neither line-up has a lot of history with the opposing starting pitcher today, as Kevin Kiermaier and his six at-bats against Mikolas is the most by any player on either side. I still think Toronto will have an easier time adjusting to Mikolas, especially since he was worse than the league average in home run percentage last season at 3.1%. The Blue Jays lineup ranked first in the league in hard-hit percentage and 8th in home run percentage, so this is an ideal starter for them to face on day one.
St. Louis was one of the best teams at consistently getting on base last season, ranking 5th in OBP; however, Manoah proved last season he could shut down teams like that as he had an opponent OBP of (.268). Overall I think the Blue Jays can get to Mikolas early and give Manoah a nice lead to work with, allowing them to pick up the Opening Day win.
Toronto Blue Jays (-120)