Opening Day, Acts 2-13
Well, there will actually only been 12 acts in this today's round robin of spring fun, thanks to the timely "potential" snow storm that's bearing down on Chicago, right in time to make a mess of an Opening Day without any scheduling blotches. See, you take Cleveland out of the first rotation of games, and you end up with snow on another Great Lakes shoreline. You can't win for trying.
Still, that leaves
11 10 face offs on a Monday afternoon and evening, all of which bring some tantalizing options after last night's Derek Lowe-dominated warm up. Everyone ready? Good. Here's the box score/preview breakdown:
- Mets at Reds, 1:05 p.m. (Johan Santana vs. Aaron Harang): Not only are the Reds baseball's most traditional opening day city, they're also suddenly a trendy pick to steal an NL playoff spot if their young pitching comes together and they can hit homers they way anyone above t-ball should be able to at Great American Ballpark.
- UPDATE: This game is postponed, too. See, now we know why the Sox hadn't played at home on Opening Day in far too long. Rays at Red Sox, 2:05 p.m. (James Sheilds vs. Josh Beckett): When was the last time Fenway Park hosted a game on true Opening Day? It's been at least five years, and it feels like a lot more. The AL East wastes no time getting to the meat of the matter in an impending, season-long fight, with last year's contenders for the AL crown in the ALCS getting right back at it. Something tells us The Faithful will be in full throated support, regardless of weather.
- Indians at Rangers, 2:05 p.m. (Cliff Lee vs. Kevin Millwood): Two starters that should be headed in very different directions face off for teams for which there seems to be no clear compass. Will Cleveland bounce back and contend in the AL Central? Maybe. Will the Rangers actually put together a run in the AL West. Probably not, but you never know. This could be one of the day's more intriguing games to watch, regardless of future ramifications.
- Rockies at Diamondbacks, 3:40 p.m. (Aaron Cook at Brandon Webb): Why Arizona doesn't start at home every single year is an absolute mystery to us. There are already teams out in the desert from spring training, and you know there's not weather problems. Yet, this is the first time in four years that Brandon Webb has gotten the ball in his home ballpark. He'll face Aaron Cook ... and then settle in for a month in which Arizona plays 18 of 22 games at home. That stretch should go a long way toward helping determine how the NL West plays out.
- Yankees at Orioles, 4:05 p.m. (CC Sabathia vs. Jeremy Guthrie): Boy, the questions just don't stop in this one. Which Jeremy Guthrie will show up, the one we saw throughout much of spring training or the one the U.S. team in the World Baseball Classic insisted it wanted on the squad? Will CC Sabathia get out of the box quickly? What about Mark Teixeira, hitting near his home town and against a team that desperately wanted to sign him?
- Nationals at Marlins, 4:10 p.m. (John Lannan vs. Ricky Nolasco): Nothing says Opening Day like a game in a ballpark that will be obsolete in five years ... with the most apathetic fans in the major leagues, right? Well, at least the weather will be good for the Nats and Marlins, both of whom have big expectations to show improvement, yet not necessarily make the playoffs. Of course, everyone here knew that already, for sure.
- Pirates at Cardinals, 4:15 p.m. (Paul Maholm vs. Adam Wainwright): You want a tough task? Try and predict which way the Cardinals are going to go this year. They didn't add any huge pieces, but doesn't it seem like whenever St. Louis should take a step back it somehow makes a leap forward ... or at least contends for a division crown? At least one writer -- ESPN's Peter Pasquarelli -- is picking the red birds to win the NL Central. A lot of that may depend on how Chris Carpenter's comeback comes along, but we won't get to take stock of that for a few more days. First, it's Adam Wainwright and the everpresent worry that, finally, Albert Pujols will start to show the side effects of playing with a significant arm injury.
- Cubs at Astros, 7:05 p.m. (Carlos Zambrano vs. Roy Oswalt): Well, Carlos Zambrano picked a great time to lobby for the Cubs to leave Wrigley Field, didn't he? It's just a good thing that he's helping the team open it's 101st season without a championship on the road, rather than the friendly confines. Well, that and the snow.
- Dodgers at Padres, 7:04 p.m. (Hiroki Kuroda at Jake Peavy): The Dodgers are more than the trendy pick to win the NL West, the decision seems to be near unanimous. But they're trying to make a division title run with Kuroda -- not Derek Lowe -- as the ace. The Padres, meanwhile, are universally thought to be the worst team in baseball, at least on paper. But they do have Jake Peavy, which makes this a particularly interesting opening day face off. If hope springs eternal, we'll get to see it right here with San Diego.
- Tigers at Blue Jays, 7:15 p.m. (Justin Verlander vs. Roy Halladay): Two aces of two teams that could have a long season turn into a giant sell off. If the Blue Jays or Tigers struggle to get out of the gate, they'll almost certainly have a fire sale of pricey top shelf talent. That's why this first game, as much as any others, is near essential to getting off on the right foot for both teams.
- Mariners at Twins, 8:10 p.m. (Felix Hernandez at Francisco Liriano): Another first game match up between two pitchers who were supposed to emerge as world beaters long ago, this is an interesting tussle of organizations seemingly headed in opposite directions. Just as the Tigers and Blue Jays, above, the Mariners could enter full sell-off mode if an early season swoon takes bloom.
- Athletics at Angels, 9:10 p.m. (Dallas Braden vs. Joe Saunders): The Angels enter the season as prohibitive favorites to win the AL West ... again ... but they also sport what is easily the most banged-up rotation in baseball. They'll hope to tread water until they can get the likes of John Lackey and Ervin Santana back on the mound, but starting against the one team pegged as a legitimate division challenger isn't the easiest way to get that rolling.
Feel free to weigh in on your team or your favorite match up in today's openers. Or on the weather, which is ruining the best Monday of the year in the Back Bay and on Chicago's South side.
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