The way Opening Day has been marketed has changed over and over. There was the time a the first game was played in Australia, the more common switch to having a game on Sunday night before the traditional Monday start and more. Now we’ve come to a time when every MLB team will start on the same day. That day is today. No, its not a Monday like it should be, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about. Instead, I’d like to provide you with a ranking of the 15 baseball games that will be played today (and tomorrow) based on watchability.
1. Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays
Sale Day is the best day of every week and Opening Sale Day is one of the best of the year. Add in the fact that the Rays are countering with their own ace, Chris Archer, and you’ve got a great pitching matchup. The Rays are not the same team on the field, but who cares? Getting to see J.D. Martinez swing for the fences and Mookie Betts and the rest of the young core get it going again is a nice treat.
The last time these teams played was in the NL Wild Card game. That was a fun one, as the Diamondbacks took an 11-8 victory during a battle of offense. This is a game with elite corner infielders, with Nolan Arenado handling the hot corner for the Rockies and Paul Goldschmidt manning first for the D-Backs. Both are two of the best to watch play both at the plate, on the bases and in the field.
There’s a reason this is the only game by itself at 7:08 p.m. (EST). While Madison Bumgarner isn’t starting for the Giants, Clayton Kershaw will represent the Dodgers and the Giants get to trot out new acquisitions Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria.
This is a sneaky awesome pitching matchup and a preview of the teams that will be duking it out at the top of the NL East in the years to come. Both teams are packed with tons of young talent. The Phillies have Rhys Hoskins crushing home runs and Aaron Nola, who quietly had an excellent 2017. The Braves will counter with established guys like Freddie Freeman and Ender Inciarte and young guys like Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson. Plus, despite a down year last season, Julio Teheran is still just 27-years-old and the owner of a 3.59 career ERA. He will give Nola a duel.
Last year’s Cy Young winner (Corey Kluber) pitches against a king, as Felix Hernandez gets the Opening Day nod for Seattle. We need to cherish every game we get to see Hernandez pitch because even though he’s on the decline, he’s still one of the best to ever do it. The Indians are still one of the most complete teams in the majors even after losing Carlos Santana to the Phillies. The Mariners didn’t make the splash they wanted this offseason, but they did get Dee Gordon and already have Nelson Cruz, who is always a threat to go yard.
Carlos Martinez and Noah Syndergaard are both excellent young starters who throw absolute gas. They are the starters in this one. Plus it will be interesting to see Marcell Ozuna in a Cardinals uniform.
Even though this game was postponed until Friday, its still a good one. While the Reds haven’t won more than 70 games since 2014, they have a surprisingly fun lineup. Billy Hamilton is a magician on the base paths, Joey Votto makes opposing pitchers cry and Adam Duvall, Eugenio Suarez and Scott Schelber all have 25-plus home run power. Now that I’ve got you on the Reds, don’t forget the Nationals send Cy Young winner Max Scherzer to the mound and Bryce Harper will begin his free agency audition tour.
8. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Oakland Athletics
Even if Shohei Ohtani doesn’t get into the lineup tomorrow, this is still a relatively interesting joust. Mike Trout is the best player in baseball. That alone is riveting. Plus the Angels have the brilliance of Andrelton Simmons at short and the return of Garrett Richards, who looked like he was back to normal in a short September stint following a mostly lost 2017 season. On Oakland’s side, Matt Chapman and Matt Olson are good young players you might not know about yet and Khris Davis can hit the ball 17 country miles.
9. Houston Astros at Texas Rangers
The champs are here. Is there a better middle infield in baseball than Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve? I don’t think so. Adrian Beltre is still playing for the Rangers and Joey Gallo will either hit a massive home run or strike out every time he comes to the plate.
Maybe the Yankees won’t actually be good? Seems unlikely but let’s hope.
The ex-Royal grudge match. Lorenzo Cain (not to mention Christian Yelich) and the already solid Brewers lineup take on Eric Hosmer, his eight-year contract and the Padres.
12. Chicago Cubs at Miami Marlins
The Cubs are really good. The Marlins are not.
13. Minnesota Twins at Baltimore Orioles
The Twins made the playoffs last season and got better in the offseason. Byron Buxton is a thrill-ride in the outfield and might have finally figured out how to hit consistently. Manny Machado begins what might be his last season in Baltimore.
I hope you like rebuilding teams. The White Sox are on the better side of that coin but the Royals are going to be really bad for a while.
15. Pittsburgh Pirates at Detroit Tigers
Hey, its baseball and that’s good enough for me.
Chris Sale is starting Opening Day and that is a wonderful thing. (Jason Mastrodonato; Boston Herald)
Sale very much trusts his catchers to call a good game and just goes out there to deliver the best outing he can. (Peter Abraham; Boston Globe)
The Red Sox outfield might not keep Win. Dance. Repeat.-ing and I am devastated. (Nick O’Malley; MassLive)
All of Baseball Prospectus Boston’s preseason predictions in one neat package. (Brett Cowett; BP Boston)
Here’s what the Red Sox need to do to win the whole thing. (Michael Silverman’ Boston Herald)