Happy Opening Day! It is finally here after a lengthy and, quite frankly, a scary lockout that threatened the season. Throughout the season, I’ll be doing both weekday and weekend series previews to help people figure out what they want to watch around the league. With the Nationals likely to struggle, this is the place to find what other games to watch and how to watch them.
We’ve got a handful of games starting Thursday, though several were postponed due to weather, but everyone will be in action on Friday. And because of the delay to Opening Day from the lockout, baseball is competing for coverage with the Masters, which is why ESPN isn’t having their usual quadruple header on Thursday. Luckily it looks like MLB Network will be picking up the slack by adding a lot of live coverage to their lineup for the weekend. Additionally AppleTV+ will have two games on Friday night which I believe will be free this week.
Three Series to Watch
Mets at Nationals
Thursday, 7:05 (MASN): Tyler Megill vs Patrick Corbin
Friday, 7:45 (AppleTV+): Max Scherzer vs Josiah Gray
Saturday, 7:05 (MASN): Chris Bassitt vs TBD
Sunday, 1:35 (MASN): Carlos Carrasco vs TBD
The New York Mets travel to Washington, DC with high expectations once again. Jacob deGrom was supposed to get the nod for Opening Day, but injury will be keeping him out until at least May. The Mets opt to leave former Nats legend Max Scherzer to pitch Game 2 on Friday against Josiah Gray, so Tyler Megill gets the nod on Opening Day against Patrick Corbin. Former A Chris Bassitt goes for the Mets on Saturday with Carrasco going in the finale on Sunday. Taijuan Walker will fill out the Mets rotation by being the starter in the Phillies series next week. The Nationals haven’t announced their starters for Saturday and Sunday, but I expect Erick Fedde and Anibal Sanchez to take those spots with Joan Adon being the team’s 5th starter.
As much as the Mets made big splashes with the signing of Max Scherzer and to a much lesser extent Starling Marte, I really like the smaller moves they made. Eduardo Escobar, Mark Canha, and Chris Bassitt are underrated acquisitions and show the Mets do seem to have some sort of plan rather than just signing whatever big names they can. I expect both Escobar and Canha to be in their Opening Day lineup along with Starling Marte, which will help take some of the pressure off Francisco Lindor and Pete Alonso.
The Nationals, on the other hand, get to debut Nelson Cruz in the middle of their lineup sandwiched between Juan Soto and Josh Bell. The lineup beyond that is, well… questionable. Free agent acquisition Cesar Hernandez will likely start at second base and hit at the top of the order, while non-roster invite Dee Strange-Gordon will hope to recapture his pre-2019 form and could bat leadoff. Keibert Ruiz had a monster day earlier in the week, and is poised for a breakout season. Former Phillie Maikel Franco will start at 3B and I expect both Robles and Lane Thomas to start in the outfield alongside Soto.
Facing Megill on Opening Day instead of deGrom gives the Nats a chance in this series. I think they’ll get a surprise split to start the year.
Red Sox at Yankees
Friday, 1:05 (MLB Network): Nathan Eovaldi vs Gerrit Cole
Saturday, 4:05 (FS1): Nick Pivetta vs TBD
Sunday, 7:08 (ESPN, ESPN2): Tanner Houck vs TBD
Red Sox at Yankees was supposed to be the first game of the baseball season, but weather has caused the series start to be postponed until Friday. They will still get the National Broadcast coverage on MLB Network on Friday, which means they’ll be on National TV all weekend as their Saturday matchup is on FS1 and they’ve got the first Sunday night ESPN broadcast of the season.
In that MLB Network showcase on Friday we get a rematch of the 2021 AL Wild Card game as big game Nathan Eovaldi matches up against 2022 AL Cy Young hopeful Gerrit Cole. The Red Sox will go with Nick Pivetta in Game 2 and Tanner Houck in Game 3, while the Yankees have yet to announce the rest of their starters for the weekend. I expect them to go with two of Jameson Taillon, Jordan Montgomery, or Luis Severino.
I am really excited to see how Trevor Story fits into this Red Sox lineup, while the Yankees big move seems to be bringing in Josh Donaldson from Minnesota. As always, it should be a fun rivalry series to start the year. Despite the mediocre pitching staff, I think the Red Sox will start hot and take two of three from New York on the road.
Rangers at Blue Jays
Friday, 7:07: Jon Gray vs Jose Berrios
Saturday, 3:07: TBD vs TBD
Sunday, 1:37 (MLB Network): TBD vs TBD
Deciding on which final series to highlight was tough, but I decided on the Rangers at Blue Jays due to the new acquisitions and expectations for these two teams. Former Rockie Jon Gray will get the nod on Opening Day for the Rangers, while my personal AL Cy Young pick Jose Berrios will get the nod for the Blue Jays. Both teams are TBD for Saturday and Sunday, but I expect the Rangers to go with Martin Perez and former Nats prospect Dane Dunning. Their rotation is pretty shallow, as the Blue Jays will likely counter with big free agent acquisition Kevin Gausman and either Hyun-Jin Ryu or Alek Manoah. Advantage: Blue Jays by a lot.
That being said, the Rangers will have a new look lineup this season with the Rangers suddenly having quite possibly the best double play combo in the majors with Marcus Semien and Corey Seager. They also added former Twins catcher Mitch Garver to pair with Nate Lowe and Adolis Garcis in the middle of their order. It’s a decent lineup 1-5 before getting a little thin from 6-9. On the other side, the Blue Jays lineup is deep with George Springer, Bo Bichette, Vladdy Jr., Teoscar Hernandez, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and Matt Chapman being the 1-6. Sure, they might miss Semien a little bit at 2B, but Cavan Biggio will be fine there and overall the Blue Jays as a whole are better than last year. Advantage once again goes to the Blue Jays.
I think the Blue Jays start hot and sweep the Rangers to kick off the 2021 season. I just don’t see Martin Perez and Dane Dunning keeping the Blue Jays bats quiet. It is Opening Weekend, however, so anything is possible.
Brewers at Cubs
2021 NL Cy Young winner Corbin Burnes gets the nod against the rebuilding Cubbies in the season’s first game of the year, which will be broadcast on MLB Network at 2:20. The nasty Brewers’ three-headed starting pitching monster of Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, and Freddy Peralta will be a fun introduction to Major League Baseball from big Japanese star outfielder Sieya Suzuki. Marcus Stroman will also make his debut for the Cubs this weekend. This will be a 4-game series to start the year with games today through Sunday.
Guardians at Royals
It’s Shane Bieber versus likely future HoFer Zack Greinke on Opening Day. It will be Greinke’s first Opening Day start for the Royals since 2010. Neither team will likely be in the running for the postseason, but the Guardians feature an intriguing rotation and bonafide superstar in Jose Ramirez while the Royals give phenom and top prospect Bobby Witt Jr. the nod at 3B on Opening Day. This will be a 4-game series to start the year with games today through Sunday.
Pirates at Cardinals
Unlike a lot of other teams, the Pirates opted not to have their top prospect Oneil Cruz make the Opening Day roster, so the only fun bats to watch in their lineup is Ke’Bryan Hayes (if healthy enough to play this weekend) and outfielder Bryan Reynolds. On the flipside, the Cardinals are turning back the clock as Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina, and Albert Pujols have been reunited once again. The 2006 and 2011 World Series Champions are joined by a good core that includes Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt, and breakout star Tyler O’Neill. This will be a 4-game series to start the year with games today through Sunday.
Reds at Braves
It’s a rare road series to start the year for the Reds, who as MLB’s oldest team, normally get every Opening Day at home complete with a parade through downtown Cincinnati. Instead, they’ll get to watch the Atlanta Braves celebrate their 2021 World Series Championship. The Reds shipped away much of their team but the lineup is still left with future HoFer Joey Votto and 2021 Rookie of the Year Jonathan India to anchor their offense. They are joined by Mike Moustakes, Tommy Pham, and former Pirate Colin Moran, who all hope to recapture success that they had earlier in their careers. Ace Luis Castillo is injured, so it’s unknown if he’ll pitch this weekend, but we could see top pitching prospect Hunter Greene if we’re lucky. On the flipside the Braves will debut new All Star first baseman Matt Olsen, who replaces the beloved Freddie Freeman in the middle of that lineup. This will be a 4-game series to start the year with the games on Thursday and Saturday being available on national broadcasts through ESPN 2 and MLB Network respectively.
Astros at Angels
This easily could have been the third series I highlighted above as Framber Valdez faces 2021 AL MVP Shohei Ohtani on Thursday night, which is the only game of the series that won’t be available on a national broadcast. The Angels come in with a new look pitching staff that includes former Met Noah Syndergaard and former Red Michael Lorenzen. The Astros return basically their entire team except Carlos Correa and are fully aware the road to the AL West will run through them. This will be a 4-game series to start the year with the game on Friday being available for free on AppleTV+ while the Saturday and Sunday games will be available on MLB Network.
Padres at Diamondbacks
The final Thursday game features the San Diego Padres and their division rival Arizona Diamondbacks. The Padres just acquired closer Taylor Rogers from the Twins for Chris Paddack and another prospect to help boost their bullpen just days after acquiring Sean Manaea from the A’s to bolster their rotation. Yu Darvish will face Diamondbacks ace Madison Bumgarner on Opening Day, while Sean Manaea and Joe Musgrove will start for the Padres on Friday and Saturday respectively. This will be a 4-game series to start the year with games today through Sunday.
White Sox at Tigers (starts Friday)
The defending AL Central champs head to Comerica to face the upstart Tigers in a 3-game series that starts on Friday. Top prospect Spencer Torkelson is expected to start at first for the Tigers, while new signing Eduardo Rodriguez is expected to start on the mound. The game on Saturday at 1:10 will be available on MLB Network.
Athletics at Phillies (starts Friday)
The Athletics have the lowest payroll in baseball after yet another firesale in the offseason, and they start with an Interleague road series against the Philadelphia Phillies. Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos will debut for the Phillies in this series, bolstering a powerful lineup that already included two-time MVP Bryce Harper and All Star catcher JT Realmuto. This 3-game series concludes on Sunday.
Orioles at Rays (starts Friday)
The Rays once again went under-the-radar this offseason, but don’t be surprised if they win their 3rd straight AL East crown. They’ll get started on Friday against the bottom feeder Orioles, which will feature an underrated pitching matchup in John Means versus Shane McClanahan. Rays middle infield of Wander Franco and Brandon Lowe could give the Rangers’ Semien and Seager a run for their money as the best middle infield in baseball. This is a three game series and if you’re in the Baltimore/DC area, available to watch on MASN.
Dodgers at Rockies (starts Friday)
The Dodgers will look to begin their road to a 2022 World Series championship by heading on the road to Colorado to start the season. Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, and Julio Urias will form a lethal trio and get the starts this weekend, but beyond that the rotation is questionable, having to rely on Tony Gonsolin and Andrew Heaney. New free agent and defending World Series Champion Freddie Freeman will make his debut, while head-scratching free agent signing Kris Bryant will do the same on the other side for the Colorado Rockies. This is a three game series that concludes on Sunday.
Marlins at Giants (starts Friday)
Sandy Alcantara vs Logan Webb on Friday should be a fantastic pitching duel. The Giants will hope to replicate their surprising 2021 season, though they’ll have to do it without future HoFer Buster Posey, All Star ace Kevin Gausman, and midseason blockbuster acquisition Kris Bryant. They do still have a lethal pitching staff behind Webb, bringing back Alex Wood and Anthony DeSclafani and adding Carlos Rodon and Alex Cobb. On the flip side, the Marlins feature their own exciting rotation, all of which are under 26 years old. Pablo Lopez and Trevor Rogers will likely get the nod behind Alcantara, which makes this series potentially the best series to watch in terms of pitching matchups. This is a three game series that concludes on Sunday.