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Happy Opening Day, baseball fans! All the vague hot stove tweets, the rumors confirmed and denied, the spring training over-analysis and the agonizing will-they, won’t-they of roster construction can finally be laid to rest for another six months. The playing field is even again, and your team could probably win the World Series this October! But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There are three riveting match-ups around the league today, culminating in a World Series-contender showdown between the Mets and the Royals. Here’s what you need to know about each of them.
The two winningest teams of 2015, the Pirates and the Cardinals, will kick everything off at 1:05pm ET. Perennial Opening Day starter Adam Wainwright will try to stretch his record to three wins in three consecutive season openers, this time against Pirates’ southpaw Francisco Liriano. Although Wainwright lost most of last season to a torn Achilles tendon, resurfacing in September for a scant three appearances in the postseason, he appeared healthy throughout spring training and should be good to go against a familiar rival.
While the Pirates and Cardinals duke it out for a leg up in the NL Central, another division battle between the Blue Jays and Rays will commence at Tropicana Field at 4:05pm ET. Even with the added pressure of performing in front of MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, the clubs are well-equipped with two of their finest starters: All-Star righty Chris Archer and newly-minted Blue Jays ace Marcus Stroman. Off the mound, the Rays did some re-tooling this offseason with ex-Mariners Logan Morrison and Brad Miller, and will be counting on contributions from Evan Longoria, Corey Dickerson, and Desmond Jennings in the heart of the order. Whether or not that will be enough to unseat the dynamic Blue Jays offense remains to be seen.
Rounding out the day’s festivities is the crème de la crème of Sunday Night Baseball: A showdown between the Mets and World Series-defending Royals at 8:37pm ET. Whatever slip-ups the Mets have spent the offseason trying to forget will be brought back into focus when the Royals unveil their new championship banner during the pregame ceremony. Backed by a potent offensive lineup, Royals’ right-hander Edinson Volquez will square off against a mostly-healthy Matt Harvey and home run destroyer Yoenis Cespedes. Though the Mets shuffled around their infielders and relief options this spring, they look more than capable of giving the defending champs a run for their money. Rivalries and championships aside, remember this: Today is just Opening Day. Kick back, crank up your radio, and enjoy another long, glorious season of baseball.
- Happy WrestleMania Opening Day, wrestling fans who are reading a baseball column! We just have one question for you: Which National League team best embodies the spirit of Hulk Hogan? (And why does a team featuring the best player in baseball also evoke memories of Sin Cara?)
- Baseball players don’t often settle grudges with fisticuffs, but when they do, this happens. Perhaps they should take a cue from the world of professional wrestling and duke it out on the mat instead.
- Forget rain delays: It might snow at the Tigers’ home opener, making it the coldest season start in franchise history.
- The Cubs were big spenders in the offseason, though not in the way they were expected to be. Where did all that money go — and will it be enough to net another 97+ wins?
- The Yankees finally elected long-tenured starter CC Sabathia to their rotation this season, but the price of loyalty may be steeper than they realize.
- Joe Panik was good at baseball in 2015, and there’s no reason to believe that he won’t be good at baseball in 2016, too.
- Although you’ll see less of Chief Wahoo this season, the Indians aren’t ready to get rid of their controversial logo just yet.
- The winds might be blowing in the Cubs’ favor in 2016, but there are a few reasons to believe the Cardinals will be solid contenders as well.
- With O.Co Coliseum just a stone’s throw from Oracle Arena, the A’s and Warriors share parking lots, fan bases, and even… the same basketball court? On Saturday, some of Oakland’s finest baseball players practiced their tunnel shots and three-pointers, and the results weren’t all that bad.
- So, you want to be a Mariners fan? You’ll need courage, suds, and a hearty dose of unflinching optimism.