Expect Matinee Pitchers’ Duel Between Cardinals & Mets

Matthew Jordan

Friday, March 30, 2018 4:08 PM UTC

Friday, Mar. 30, 2018 4:08 PM UTC

Looks to be a terrific pitching matchup Saturday afternoon (1:10 ET) from Citi Field as the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets play Game 2 of their opening series.

St. Louis Cardinals (1-0 O/U) at New York Mets (1-0 O/U)Free MLB Pick: UnderBest Line Offered: BetOnline

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It’s a 1:10 p.m. ET first pitch from Citi Field on Saturday afternoon as the Mets host the Cardinals for Game 2 of three-game set – and St. Louis’ only visit of the season. Although, this writer believes these will be the two NL wild-card teams this season as long as major injuries are avoided.

Perhaps no manager in baseball opened the season on a hotter seat than the Cardinals’ Mike Matheny. St. Louis has missed the playoffs in back-to-back years for only the second time this century. If the Cards get off to a slow start, Matheny could well be the first manager fired. If they miss the playoffs again, he certainly will be after the season.

The offseason trade for Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna fortified the St. Louis lineup, which should be Top 5 in the National League. One major hole, however, had been at closer. The three relievers who led the team in saves last season — Seung Hwan Oh, Trevor Rosenthal and Juan Nicasio — are all gone. Luke Gregerson, an early closing candidate, is on the DL. Thus, the team was looking at some committee of Dominic Leone, Tyler Lyons and perhaps rookie Jordan Hicks.

However, on Thursday the Cardinals signed 2017 All-Star closer Greg Holland to a one-year, $14 million deal, and he’ll take the role after some seasoning in minor-league games. Holland tied for the NL lead with 41 saves last year for the Rockies. He was a very different guy in each half of the season, though. The former Royal had 28 saves in 29 chances and a 1.62 ERA before the All-Star break. Post-break, he was 2-5 and converted 13 of 16 save chances with a 6.38 ERA. During the NL wild-card game loss to Arizona, Holland gave up two runs. The Cards didn’t pursue him heavily in the winter because of Holland’s second half, his salary demands (which clearly came way down) and the fact he costs the team a draft pick – St. Louis will lose No. 59 overall this year.

In Thursday’s opener, the Mets won 9-4 in Mickey Callaway’s debut as manager. Yoenis Cespedes had two hits and three RBIs, and Dodgers castoff Adrian Gonzalez had two hits, two walks, an RBI and a run. The Cardinals struck out 15 times and managed six hits against Noah Syndergaard and three relievers. The Mets have baseball's best all-time record on Opening Day at 37-20.

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Saturday’s Probable Pitchers

It’s Mets co-ace Jacob deGrom on the mound. He was originally projected to start Opening Day but had a bit of back stiffness in spring training that set him back briefly. DeGrom was the only Mets pitcher who stayed mostly healthy last year, going 15-10 with a 3.53 ERA and setting career highs in wins, innings (201.1) and strikeouts (239). The 29-year-old was a bit better at home, going 6-6 with a 3.34 ERA.

DeGrom was 2-0 with a 3.29 ERA vs. St. Louis, allowing just eight hits (.160 average) and striking out 18 in 14 innings. Ozuna has faced him more than any Met, going 8-for-30 with two doubles and a homer. Paul DeJong is 3-for-6 with a dinger. Matt Carpenter just 3-for-14 with three strikeouts but does have a solo homer.

St. Louis counters with Michael Wacha. The 26-year-old was so good his first three seasons, slipped badly in an injury-plagued 2016 and then bounced back a bit last year, going 12-9 with a 4.13 ERA and 1.36 WHIP. Wacha’s 8.58 Ks/9 rate was his best since his rookie season.

Wacha’s best start of last year, with a game score of 88 (anything near 90 is great, with 100s very rare), was a complete-game three-hit shutout of the Mets on July 18 at Citi Field, striking out eight and walking one. That remains Wacha’s only career shutout & complete game. Jay Bruce just can’t hit the guy, going 1-for-28 with 12 strikeouts. Todd Frazier is 6-for-24 with two homers.

Slight lean to the Mets here, but the clear value for a Saturday MLB pick is the ‘under.’ These early-afternoon starts always benefit the pitchers – and we have two good ones on the mound.

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