The 2016 MLB season gets underway on Sunday afternoon with a divisional rivalry when the St. Louis Cardinals visit PNC Park to take on the Pittsburgh Pirates. These two clubs racked up the most wins of the 2015 season but during the offseason both clubs lost some key players while the Cubs strengthened with some good signings. This has made the Cubs the favorites in the NL Central division.
The Cardinals will have their ace, Adam Wainwright on the mound. The Cardinals will be delighted to have him back in the rotation after he missed most of last season with an Achilles injury. The veteran is now 34 years old and many are questioning whether he can can still be one of baseball’s best pitchers at that age.
Wainwright will be determined to prove the doubters wrong and get the Cardinals off to a winning start. He doesn’t normally pitch well at PNC Park. Over the last five years, Adam has started three games at PNC, and the Cards have gone 0-3 with a 4.05 ERA.
The Pirates will have lefty Francisco Liriano on the mound as Gerrit Cole is dealing with a rib injury. Liriano can be frustrating to watch at times as he strikes out a lot of hitters, but also walks a lot. Since 2013, Liriano has posted a 3.26 ERA and 1.24 WHIP despite a walk rate that exceeds 10%. He does have a nasty slider to watch for and he likes working below the strike zone. Liriano doesn’t go too deep in games usually so the Cards hitters will want to get him out early and get to the Pirates bullpen.
Liriano usually does well at PNC Park against the Cardinals. He has started 7 games against the Cardinals at PNC Park, in which he has a 3.02 ERA and a 4-3 record. Overall, since becoming a Pirate he is 7-4 against the Cardinals.
Offensively, both clubs lack a seriously dangerous slugger. The Cardinals will be looking to Matt Carpenter and Matt Holiday to provide their offensive spark whilst the Pirates will rely heavily on the bat of Andrew Mccutchen.
My prediction is the Pirates to win the opening game of the 2016 season.