The San Diego Padres begin life without All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and face off against the league’s best at that particular position in St. Louis on Opening Day.
San Diego Padres at St. Louis Cardinals
San Diego enjoyed a magical season last year and just missed winning the division by losing to the World Series champion San Francisco Giants on the final day of the season. The Padres will now need to move on without star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez in the middle of the lineup, which could be difficult when factoring in that new additions Brad Hawpe and Ryan Ludwick are penciled into the No. 3 and No. 4 spots in the order. Over the winter, manager Bud Black hinted that he may use second baseman Orlando Hudson in the third hole, but seemed to change his mind and dropped him into the sixth spot. San Diego is 78-85 on the road the past two seasons.
Padres starting pitcher Tim Stauffer draws the Opening Day assignment due to All-Star Mat Latos beginning the season on the 15-day disabled list with a shoulder injury. He finished last season with a 6-5 record and 1.85 ERA in making 32 appearances and seven starts. The right-hander is 0-4 with a 9.33 ERA in four career starts versus the Cardinals, giving up 19 runs and 26 hits in just 18.1 innings of work. He compiled an even 2-2 mark and 1.98 ERA in 10 daytime appearances last year, including three starts.
St. Louis begins the 2011 season in what many believe will be the final year of first baseman Albert Pujols being the face of the franchise. His first decade with the club is among the best in major league history, with a solid string of .300 averages with 30 home runs and 100 RBIs. “I wish I was certain about us playing in October as I am about the reception Albert’s going to get,” said manager Tony LaRussa on the situation. “I mean, his 10 years here, I think the fans are going to be louder than ever for him.” St. Louis is 97-65 at home the past two seasons.
Cardinals starting pitcher Chris Carpenter comes off another stellar season in producing a 16-9 record and 3.22 ERA in 35 starts and draws the Opening Day assignment due to Adam Wainwright being out for the year. The right-hander was a fantastic 12-4 with a 2.81 ERA in 19 home outings last year, holding opponents to just a .218 average in the process. He will be making just his seventh career starts against the Padres, going 3-2 with a 3.21 ERA, while not allowing a single home run in 42 innings of work.
Bettors will be interested in backing the Cardinals due to their 13-3 record versus the National League West, while the Padres are 0-6 in Stauffer’s last six starts against the Central Division.