St. Louis Cardinals 2015 Opening Night Preview: What You Need To Know

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It’s been 171 days since the St. Louis Cardinals’ 2014 season concluded with a NLCS series loss to the San Francisco Giants. However, the Cardinals had a shorter offseason than most teams around Major League Baseball, as St. Louis opens up 2015 regular season play tonight in a division rival showdown at Wrigley Field against the Chicago Cubs at 7:05 p.m.

Adam Wainwright will get the opening nod for the fourth time in Cardinals history, while two-time World Series champion Jon Lester makes his Cubs’ debut after signing a six-year, $155 million deal in the offseason. While both teams look to make an impression in the first game of the 2015 MLB season, the Cardinals have plenty at stake against their division rival beyond the hype of Opening Night. 

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Coming off of their second consecutive National League Central title, the Cardinals will look to sustain within division play. While St. Louis posted 45 victories against NL Central opponents in 2014, several wins against the Cubs didn’t come easily. The Cardinals finished 10-9 against Chicago last season with only a six-run difference.

Although Mike Matheny returns for his fourth season as manager, the Cardinals changed the clubhouse around with a few notable offseason acquisitions. Jason Heyward will be the only newcomer to take over a starting position, who collected 84 home runs and two gold glove awards after five seasons with Atlanta. St. Louis added a little more experience to this year’s Opening Night roster with the signings of Mark Reynolds, Matt Belisle and Carlos Villanueva.

Meanwhile, the Cubs made some significant changes over the winter as well, most notably instigated by the hiring of former Rays’ skipper Joe Maddon. The Cubs followed up by signing Lester to one of the largest contracts of the past offseason, while adding Miguel Montero, Dexter Fowler and former Cardinal Jason Motte as well. A few setbacks may affect the Cubs heading into Opening Night, as Wrigley Field’s reconstruction is not quite complete and hot-hitting spring phenom Kris Bryant begins the season in the minors.

Opening Day has provided some disappointment for the Cardinals in recent history, who have lost their first contest in five of the last eight seasons. The Cardinals and Cubs last squared off for Opening Day in 2000, when Darryl Kile led St. Louis to a 7-1 victory at Busch Memorial Stadium.

Tonight’s game is also ESPN’s first Sunday Night Baseball telecast of 2015, one of four airings currently scheduled for St. Louis this season. The Cardinals fared 3-2 in Sunday Night Baseball competition in 2014, but also won three contests against the Cubs on Sundays last year.

While tonight’s Cardinals starting lineup has yet to be confirmed, St. Louis Post-Dispatch beat writer Derrick Goold suggests that Matheny will structure the batting order similar to lineups used near the end of Spring Training.

1. Matt Carpenter– 3B

2. Jason Heyward– RF

3. Matt Holliday– LF

4. Matt Adams– 1B

5. Jhonny Peralta– SS

6. Yadier Molina– C

7. Jon Jay– CF

8. Kolten Wong– 2B

9. Adam Wainwright– SP