The Chicago Cubs are treating Friday's matinee at Wrigley Field against the rival St. Louis Cardinals as Opening Day 2.0 because it's the first time the Cubbies will have a capacity crowd at Wrigley since September 2019, and several Cub legends will be on hand to throw out the ceremonial first pitch – plus super-fan Bill Murray will sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." From a betting perspective, the books have had this line off the board because the Cubs hadn't named their starting pitcher. They now have, and in a surprise it's Kohl Stewart over Kyle Hendricks. Chicago is a -130 favorite at William Hill Sportsbook.
This normally would be the turn for Hendricks, who is the team's ace, but Manager David Ross decided to give the right-hander an extra day and he will go Saturday. Stewart is a 26-year-old journeyman with just 70.2 innings pitched in the majors over three seasons. This year, the right-hander is 1-1 with a 3.12 ERA in two starts. He was good in his Cubs debut on May 31 vs. San Diego but roughed up for three runs and seven hits over 3.2 innings last time out in San Francisco.
The Cubs welcome shortstop Javy Baez back to the lineup. He has been out since last Sunday due to a wrist injury. Baez has hit 14 home runs, tied for fourth-most in the NL, and has 39 RBIs (T5).
It's Johan Oviedo (0-2, 5.50) for the struggling Cardinals. The 23-year-old is ranked as the No. 9 prospect in the organization but has yet to win in 11 career big-league appearances (10 starts). Oviedo hasn't faced the Cubs this year but was 0-1 with a 4.66 ERA against them in two starts in 2020. Ian Happ is 2-for-3 with a homer off him. Baez is 2-for-5.
St. Louis will have shortstop Paul DeJong back in the lineup as he was activated from the 10-day injury list. He missed around a month with a fractured rib. The former All-Star is hitting just .177 on the season but has seven homers and 17 RBIs in 35 games.
The last time the Cardinals played a series in front fans at Wrigley Field was Sept. 19-22, 2019, when the Cards swept a four-game series in Chicago for the first time since May 1921. The Cubbies have been terrific at home this season, though, at 21-10, and have won 17 of their past 22 there.
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