Nearly 160 days since Madison Bumgarner and Giants hoisted up the World Series trophy, regular season baseball returns to action Sunday night as the St. Louis Cardinals take on the Chicago Cubs at 8 p.m. on ESPN2. Adam Wainwright will take the ball for the Cardinals, while Jon Lester will make his first-ever start as a Cub.
The Cardinals enter the 2015 season as one of the better teams in baseball and have high hopes to make the postseason for the fifth straight year. After trading pitcher Shelby Miller for outfielder Jason Heyward, the Cardinals managed to reduce a surplus and fill a desperate need. Heyward hit .271 with 11 home runs and a .351 on base percentage while playing Gold Glove-caliber defense in right field with the Atlanta Braves last season.
Inserting Heyward into an already potent Cardinals lineup with Matt Holiday, Matt Adams, and Matt Carpenter will give St. Louis a good chance in fending off Pittsburgh for the National League Central division title.
On the mound, St. Louis boasts their hallmark solid pitching rotation, with Wainwright at the top once again. Lance Lynn, John Lackey, Michael Wacha, and Carlos Martinez round out the rest of the rotation, and will likely be among the best in baseball. Martinez captured the fifth spot in the rotation out of Spring Training after Jaime Garcia was sidelined with shoulder issues, but could easily evolve into one of the best pitchers on the staff by the end of the season. Martinez boasts a devastating sinker and changeup, as well a high-90s fastball, and could easily become the next young Cardinals great.
Chicago made their fair share of offseason acquisitions, too, as president Theo Epstein continues to rebuild the franchise. After poaching manager Joe Maddon away from the Rays in the fall, Epstein inked Lester to a six-year $155 million dollar deal to bring postseason experience and top-tier pitching talent to Chicago.
After controversially sending budding superstar prospect Kris Bryant down to Triple A Monday in order to gain another year of team control over him, the Cubs are looking to divert attention from the Bryant fiasco to their on field play. With one of the best young players in the game in first baseman Anthony Rizzo as well as exciting young players such as Jorge Soler and Javier Baez, Cubs fans could be in line for one of their most exciting seasons in recent memory.
Following the Cubs-Cardinals matchup is a full slate of games on Monday, where every team except the Cubs and Cardinals will be in action. Baseball is finally back folks, and its time lay back and soak it all in.