Los Angeles Dodgers vs. St. Louis Cardinals Pick & Prediction MARCH 31st 2024

A new-look Gavin Stone, fresh with a spot in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ rotation, will bring an improved pitching arsenal when he makes his season debut against the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday night.

Stone made his major league debut on May 3 last season and the then-24-year-old struggled to a 9.00 ERA in eight appearances (four starts). He was back at Triple-A Oklahoma City by early July, returning to Los Angeles with just over a month left in the regular season.

One benefit of going back to the minor leagues was to add more weapons. For the first time, Stone will be opening a season with both a cutter and a sinking fastball to go along with his four-seam fastball, slider and changeup.

“Failure (stinks), so you do everything you can not to feel that feeling again,” Stone said this spring. “That’s what this offseason was about, to not feel that again.”

Perhaps Mookie Betts could supply another Dodgers pitcher with run support after hitting a home run in each of the past four games.

“We just have to win ballgames,” Betts said when asked about his home-run streak. “I don’t care about me.”

Stone ended up winning the battle for the final rotation spot in a duel with Emmet Sheehan and Michael Grove, although his role would have been less certain had Sheehan not ended up with shoulder soreness that landed him on the injured list.

Stone, who did not face the Cardinals last season, will get to start in front of new Dodgers left-hander James Paxton, who will make his debut for his new club Monday. Paxton was guaranteed a rotation spot before Stone.

Stone’s spot eventually will be filled by right-hander Walker Buehler. Buehler, who hasn’t pitched since 2022 after multiple elbow procedures, is set to make a rehab start for Oklahoma City on Sunday and could be back by late April or early May.

The Cardinals will counter with left-hander Steven Matz, who was 4-7 with a 3.86 ERA last season in 25 appearances (17 starts). He is 3-2 with a 3.18 ERA in six career starts versus the Dodgers.

The Cardinals are seeing their offense come around after scoring one run in the season opener Thursday. All three runs on Friday were scored in the eighth inning, and five came in the seventh inning on Saturday with the help of a hit batter, catcher’s interference and a balk.

“It was a weird inning and I’m glad it worked out the way it did,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “We were able to score a couple and guys kept fighting. You get down against that group and it’s tough. To continue to fight like we did was awesome.”

The Cardinals finally won it in the 10th on Paul Goldschmidt’s RBI ground out, although they had to survive a bases-loaded situation in the bottom of the inning as Geovanny Gallegos got Shohei Ohtani to pop up for the final out.

Saturday’s game was delayed 35 minutes by rain, with more inclement weather expected Sunday. It was believed to be the first rain delay at Dodger Stadium since April 2017 when a game against the San Diego Padres started 30 minutes late.

–Field Level Media

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