After two games last week in Japan, the Major League Baseball season opens up in North America on Wednesday with the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals taking on the Miami Marlins in their new home, Marlins Park. The Marlins are available at 1.55, with the Cardinals priced at 2.5.
With the departure of Albert Pujols to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and an injury that’s shelved ace Chris Carpenter, the Cardinals are rightly underdogs in this contest.
Not only is the Marlins lineup nicely balanced with speed and power (the top features off-season acquisition Jose Reyes and the fleet-footed Emilio Bonifacio and the middle has superstar home run hitter Giancarlo Stanton), but the team also sends a legitimate ace in Josh Johnson to the mound for this opener.
Johnson’s talents have never been in question. He posted a sparkling 1.64 ERA in nine starts in 2011. The issue has been health, as injuries sidelined him for much of last year’s campaign. That said he’s looked fit in spring training so this shouldn’t be a problem – at least not on opening day.
The Cardinals counter with Kyle Lohse. A middling pitcher, Lohse doesn’t have high strike out rates and, as a result, relies in large part on defense. With some subpar defenders like Lance Berkman at first base and Rafael Furcal at shortstop, he may be let down.
The best bet here is taking the under at 1.85 in the over/under of seven runs. Pitchers are typically ahead of hitters in terms of being ready at the start of the season. Moreover, Johnson’s oversized talent means he could potentially throw a shutout any time out (he didn’t concede a run in three of his six outings last year). This means the Marlins would have to score big to get over the line.