The 2021 Major League Baseball Opening Day is upon us. The St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds open the 2021 campaign against each other in a battle of National League Central rivals. This series will be a three-game set.
The first pitch of Thursday’s contest is at 4:10 p.m. EST inside Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, OH. Cincinnati is favored on the moneyline (-115), according to oddsmakers.
What to Know – St. Louis Cardinals
Thursday will be the debut of former Colorado Rockies slugger Nolan Arenado in the Cardinals lineup. Arenado was signed in the offseason to bolster a St. Louis offense that averaged 4.2 runs per game last year.
Jack Flaherty gets the nod on the mound for St. Louis. The 25-year old right-hander put together a 4-3 record last season with a 4.91 earned run average and 49 strikeouts over 40.1 innings pitched. Flaherty is considered one of the best young arms in the MLB.
The addition of Arenado to the lineup should be beneficial for first basemen Paul Goldschmidt. Goldschmidt batted .304 with six home runs, 21 RBI, and 31 runs in the shortened season last year. The 33-year old is expected to hit right in from the Arenado in the Cardinals lineup.
St. Louis should have a solid bullpen with a stable of arms to select from given the situation. Flamethrower Jordan Hicks is back from injury and expected to handle closing duties, but watch out for Alex Reyes and Giovanny Gallegos to step up if there is any early trouble for Hicks in the ninth.
What to Know – Cincinnati Reds
Cincinnati opens the 2021 season with six-straight home games before hitting the road. The Reds weren’t overly active this offseason and brought back a solid lineup with a deep pitching core.
Veteran Luis Castillo returns as the Opening Day starter for the Reds. Castillo wrapped up the 2020 season with a 4-6 mark, 3.21 ERA, and 89 strikeouts over 70.0 innings pitched. The righty is one of the league’s best swing-and-miss pitchers, ranked 3rd with a 16.1% whiff rate.
Offensively, Cincinnati expects slugger Nick Castellanos to bounce back after a troubling 2020 season. 24-year old rookie Jonathan India makes the Reds roster and will start at second for the Reds. The rest of the Cincinnati offense returned from last season.
Amir Garrett takes over the ninth-inning duties for the Reds after piecing together a great spring. Garett concluded his Catus League play with a sparkling 0.00 ERA over four innings and ten strikeouts.
The Pick is In
The offense is always behind pitching and defense early in the season, and this contest will be a prime example. Flaherty vs. Castillo is a compelling matchup for the casual baseball fan and avid fans alike. There will be some butterflies for Flaherty making his first Opening Day start, and it will lead to some early runs for the Reds.
With Castillo on the mound, those early runs will be hard to make up, and the Cincinnati Reds open the 2021 season with a victory.
The Pick: Cincinnati Reds ML