ST. LOUIS • The Cardinals will start the 2018 season earlier than they ever have and return from the All-Star break earlier than any team, Major League Baseball revealed Tuesday afternoon with the release of next summer's schedule.
Many of these details were already reported a month ago by The Post-Dispatch, but the official release confirms the paper's report.
Two changes to the schedule as negotiated in the current Collective Bargaining Agreement impact the Cardinals:
First, they open on a Thursday, March 29 at Queens against the New York Mets. It is the earliest opening for the Cardinals, and it reflects how the players' union wanted to assure more off days through the course of the season.
Second, the new CBA allows for one Thursday night game that will serve as ESPN's national broadcast for the week, and two teams are selected for that. This year, the Cardinals will travel to Wrigley Field for the game on July 19.
This is the only time during the life of this CBA the Cubs and Cardinals can be selected for that game, by rule.
The Cardinals also close the season at Wrigley Field.
They open on the road for the sixth time in seven years, and during manager Mike Matheny's tenure they have only opened once at home (this year). That is not some sinister plot against the Cardinals. No. It's actually something the Cardinals prefer. April tickets can be hard to sell with school in session and uncertain weather, so the Cardinals -- and other teams -- are happy to open on the road and limit their April dates.
The Cardinals also don't need the true opening day to have an Opening Day celebration. They know their pageantry is the draw for the home opener, whether they've already played three, six, or seven games.
Other highlights, some of which were already covered by on STLtoday and in the Post-Dispatch:
• Cardinals will open April 5 against the Diamondbacks, and if you're into that whole baseball gods and schedule karma stuff means that will will be a rematch of the NL Wild Card game.
• The Twins, White Sox, Cleveland, and the Royals all visit St. Louis for interleague play. Twins and Sox get the four-game home-and-home series vs. Cardinals, and the Cardinals travel to Detroit in September.
• The Cardinals have three home series against the Cubs -- and all of them are on the weekend, unlike this season. Clearly the Cardinals' frustration was heard. They will face the Cubs at Busch on May 4-6, June 15-17, and July 27-29.
• Cardinals are home for the trade deadline against Colorado.
• There are two off days around the series at Colorado. Not sure why anyone would notice that. Nope. Not at all.
• With the exception of one trip to Dodger Stadium the Cardinals are done with their west coast trips by the All-Star break. Unlike this year when the Cardinals finish with two three-city trips, the Cardinals have two one-city road trips in the final weeks of 2018.
• Unlike this year when the Cardinals finish the season with 22 consecutive games within the division, they close out the 2018 season with series against Washington, Detroit, LA, Atlanta, and San Francisco in the final month.
• Kansas City visits for a three-game series on May 21-23, and the Cardinals return the favor with a Aug. 10-12 stay in KC.
• If there's a bottleneck in the schedule that will test the team it's right there at the end of August when they host Washington (Aug. 13-16) for four, host Milwaukee for a weekend, and then head out on the last west coast swing of the season, to LA (Aug. 20-23) and Colorado (Aug. 24-26). All before rosters expand.
Check back as I'll update this blog entry with more morsels from the schedule as I see them.
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