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Matt Carpenter and the St. Louis Cardinals are
well aware of what happened last year.Christian Yelich and the Milwaukee Brewers are home for the first time since one memorable October.Nothing like a tough test on the very first day of class.Carpenter Joey Gallo Jersey , newcomer Paul Goldschmidt and the Cardinals visit Yelich and the Brewers on Thursday for opening day. It’s not exactly a leisurely stroll into the season for a pair of teams with championship aspirations.“I think everybody’s zoned in on the season and they’re ready to start games, start playing meaningful games,” Brewers pitcher Zach Davies said, “and just get back to our normal routine.”Miles Mikolas and Jhoulys Chacin face off in a matchup of unique pitchers coming off breakthrough performances.The 30-year-old Mikolas joined St. Louis in December 2017 after spending three seasons with the Yomiuri Giants in Japan’s Central League. The right-hander became the ace of the Cardinals in his first year with the club, going 18-4 with a 2.83 ERA.He was rewarded this spring, agreeing to a new contract that raises his pay to $75.5 million over the next five seasons.“A year ago, saying Miles would be our opening-day starter this year would have been a shock to everyone,” general manager Mike Girsch said. “He pitched amazing last year.”Chacin went 15-8 with a 3.50 ERA in a career-high 35 starts last season , helping Milwaukee run down the Chicago Cubs for the NL Central title and make it all the way to the NL Championship Series. The 31-year-old righty had a 2-1 record with a sparkling 1.46 ERA in three playoff starts last October.“He’s earned this,” manager Craig Counsell said. “I’m excited for him to take the ball. Everything last year, every time we made the game bigger, he did great.”The last time the Brewers and Cardinals saw each other, Milwaukee swept a three-game series in St. Louis as part of its eight straight wins to close last season. The sweep also damaged the Cardinals’ chances for a wild card, and they missed the playoffs for the third straight year for the first time since 1997-1999.The Brewers are looking for even more after their first playoff appearance since they also were eliminated in the NLCS in 2011. Yelich is back after slugging his way to the NL MVP award last year. Key relievers Jeremy Jeffress and Corey Knebel will begin the season on the injured list, but Josh Hader returns after his dominant performance in 2018.“The depth is the thing I think a lot of us in here are most excited about, because you know you’re going to needed that depth throughout the course of the season Ferguson Jenkins Jersey ,” outfielder Ryan Braun said. “There’s going to be a lot of good names in the lineup on a nightly basis.”St. Louis added reliever Andrew Miller in December, signing the lefty to a $25 million, two-year deal. But its biggest move of the winter was a blockbuster trade for Goldschmidt, the All-Star first baseman who hit 33 homers for Arizona last year.Goldschmidt was scheduled to become a free agent after this season, but he finalized a new contract Saturday that guarantees an additional $130 million from 2020-24. He should help solidify a lineup that also includes Carpenter and Marcell Ozuna.“We know what we can count on with him,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. MILWAUKEE — A week after Gio Gonzalez was acquired from the Washington Nationals, the veteran left-hander will make his Milwaukee Brewers debut Saturday when he takes the mound against the San Francisco Giants at Miller Park.Gonzalez has looked little like the pitcher who finished in the top 10 of National League Cy Young voting a year ago. In 27 starts for the Nationals, he was 7-11 with a 4.57 ERA and had just one victory since May 28.The Brewers still had an interest , hoping he could provide depth down the stretch — as well as a left-handed starting option — as they try to make the playoffs for the first time since 2011.Article continues below ...“We acquired him to have another good pitcher and because you don’t know what’s going to happen in this month,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “It’s his turn to go help us try to win a game.”Gonzalez hasn’t pitched in a game since Aug. 29, when he allowed six runs in five innings but took a no-decision as the Nationals fell to the Phillies. He will have 10 days off before returning to action Saturday but isn’t worried about any kind of rust factor.He also has used the downtime to his advantage, working extensively with Brewers pitching coach Derek Johnson.“I don’t want to use any excuses,” Gonzalez said. “The way I see it is just give me the ball and I’m going to try and give you 100 percent of my talent. I’ll take the ball, make my pitches and try to get some outs. Rely on my defense and rely on our offense.“Hopefully, I can keep us in the game.”Gonzalez is 5-5 with a 3.53 ERA in 14 career starts against the Giants, including an 0-1 record and 7.56 ERA in two starts this season.He will face a lineup likely to be without shortstop Brandon Crawford Ryan Rua Jersey , who was held out of Bruce Bochy’s starting lineup for a second straight day on Friday because of a sore knee that kept him out of three games last week as well.Bochy started switch-hitting Alen Hanson at short in the series opener and said he’ll give right-hander Abiatal Avelino the nod Saturday against Gonzalez.Right-hander Chris Stratton takes the mound against the Brewers, who tagged him for three runs in 1 1/3 innings of relief back earlier this season.Stratton took the loss his last time out despite holding the Mets to two runs in six innings but is 1-1 with a 1.77 ERA in his last three starts.He’s part of a group that has posted the third-best ERA in baseball since June 1 (3.37 heading into the series) but has been stymied by an offense that has struggled to generate runs.“They give us a chance, but you see the numbers; it’s just been tough since June 1 with the offense,” Bochy said. “A couple of guys getting hot, driving in runs, that’s what we’re missing.“Somebody’s got to do that for you to win ballgames. That’s what we’re missing.”
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