The NL home run race heats up

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With Mike Stanton going deep again last night, there’s now a three-way tie atop the NL home run leaderboard:

1. Matt Kemp (Dodgers): 31
1. Albert Pujols (Cardinals): 31
1. Mike Stanton (Marlins): 31
4. Lance Berkman (Cardinals): 30
4. Dan Uggla (Braves): 30
6. Prince Fielder (Brewers): 29
6. Ryan Howard (PhIllies): 29
8. Jay Bruce (Reds): 28
8. Troy Tulowitzki (Rockies): 28

Stanton, playing this season at 21, could become the youngest player ever to lead the National League in homers, overtaking Eddie Mathews, who was a slightly older 21 when he first did it.  Tony Conigliaro was just 20 when he led the AL in homers in 1965.

Stanton would also be the first Marlin to ever lead the NL in homers.

Pujols, on the other hand, is trying for his third straight crown, a feat unaccomplished in the NL since Mike Schmidt won three straight from 1974-76.  Pujols never led the league in homers during his first eight years with the Cards, but he was tops in 2009 (47) and 2010 (42).

Kemp would be just the second Los Angeles Dodger to lead the league in homers, joining 2004 champ Adrian Beltre.

Uggla would be the first second baseman to win the crown since the Cubs’ Ryne Sandberg in 1990.

Cardinals tab Miles Mikolas for Opening Day start

Miles Mikolas
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The Cardinals have selected right-hander Miles Mikolas as their Opening Day starter, the club revealed Saturday. It’ll mark the first career Opening Day start for Mikolas, who is scheduled to go up against the Brewers when the team hits the road on March 28.

The 29-year-old righty was a strong contender for the 2018 NL Cy Young Award, earning All-Star distinctions and pitching to a career-best 18-4 record with a 2.83 ERA, 1.3 BB/9, 6.5 SO/9, and 4.3 fWAR over 200 2/3 innings. He’s positioned to lead the Cardinals rotation in 2019 as well, with former Opening Day starters Carlos Martínez and Adam Wainwright and some combination of right-handers Jack Flaherty, Michael Wacha, Alex Reyes, and John Gant behind him.

Manager Mike Shildt told reporters that Flaherty, Wacha, Wainwright, and Martínez had all been considered for the honor, but admitted that Opening Day honors were ultimately handed to Mikolas “in recognition of [his performance] last year.” The Cardinals are scheduled to play a four-game set against the Brewers to start the season and will stop over in Pittsburgh for another two games before returning to St. Louis for their opening homestand against the Padres on April 4. Additional pitching assignments have yet to be announced.