Ranking best Opening Day games for 2021 MLB season - #Ranking #Opening #Day #games #MLB #season

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    The first Major League Baseball game of the 2021 season begins at 1:05 p.m. ET on Thursday, with the Blue Jays facing the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Cleveland and Detroit begin five minutes later, and then we are off. There will (hopefully) be 2,430 MLB games this season, and the first 13 -- following the postponements of the Orioles-Red Sox game in Boston, due to rain, and the Mets-Nationals game in Washington for at least two days because of ongoing contact tracing involving members of the Nationals organization -- are today. There’s no individual opening night game, no staggered first games. Everyone but the O's, Red Sox, Mets and Nationals begins today.


    In a perfect world, you’d be able to watch every second of every one of these games. But in this one, you will have to prioritize. So here you are: Your Opening Day Matchup Power Rankings. (All times Eastern, national TV broadcast listed where applicable.)


    1) Mets (Jacob deGrom) at Nationals (Max Scherzer)
    First pitch: Postponed


    The pitching matchup -- two men who share five Cy Young Awards between them -- is the obvious headline if and when these teams get to open their seasons, after Thursday's game was postponed due to COVID-19 protocols, but it’ll also be fun to see Juan Soto try to build on his Ted Williams-esque season, and even more fun to see Francisco Lindor in a Mets jersey for the first time. But let’s not forget this hopefully will be the first time the Nationals will play in front of their fans as World Series champions, too.


    2) White Sox (Lucas Giolito) at Angels (Dylan Bundy)
    First pitch: 10:05 p.m.


    Tony La Russa will manage his first game in nearly a decade against Mike Trout, a player who, when La Russa managed that last game in 2011, had a .220 batting average and four homers in 40 career games. Also, look for all the pregame photos of La Russa and Albert Pujols back together. (They both look a bit older now.)


    3) Blue Jays (Hyun Jin Ryu) at Yankees (Gerrit Cole)
    First pitch: 1:05 p.m., ESPN


    The Blue Jays’ offseason moves were the ones of a team that believes it can make a run at the Yankees atop the American League East. The Jays will get an immediate look at the team they’re trying to chase down, though, alas, they’ll do so without George Springer (strained oblique), for now.


    4) Astros (Zack Greinke) at A’s (Chris Bassitt)
    First pitch: 10:07 p.m., ESPN


    These two AL West rivals are back at it again, and while the A’s at last won the division back from Houston last year, the Astros knocked them off in the postseason. Both teams look a bit weakened from their peak, but they are likely still the favorites in the division yet again this year.


    5) Twins (Kenta Maeda) at Brewers (Brandon Woodruff)
    First pitch: 2:10 p.m.


    A sneaky-good Opening Day Interleague matchup, with two teams who made the extended playoffs last year, even if neither one of them won a game while there. They’re both serious contenders in their respective divisions this season, but with plenty of challengers, and plenty of questions. The biggest one: Christian Yelich is going to hit like Christian Yelich this year, right?


    6) Braves (Max Fried) at Phillies (Aaron Nola)
    First pitch: 3:05 p.m.


    The Braves may face their biggest challenge to their streak of National League East titles yet … but probably not from the Phillies. There’s a ton of big stars in this game, though, and it will be nice for the screaming, loud, relentless Phillies fans to be inside the stadium for this one, unlike what they had to do last year.


    7) Dodgers (Clayton Kershaw) at Rockies (Germán Márquez)
    First pitch: 4:10 p.m., ESPN


    The defending champs don’t get to raise a banner at Dodger Stadium on Opening Day, which means we don’t get to see the gold jerseys for a few more days, but it’s still the first time we can say, “World Series winner Clayton Kershaw comes out to the mound.”


    8) D-backs (Madison Bumgarner) at Padres (Yu Darvish)
    First pitch: 4:10 p.m.


    This is our first chance to see if Bumgarner can reclaim any of his past glory, but this game is, of course, all about the Padres, the most electrifying, fan-friendly team in the sport right now. And it’s Darvish’s first start wearing the Padres brown, with some fans at last in attendance to see the team they’ve been waiting for for so long. Also: Did I mention that Fernando Tatis Jr. will be playing in this game?


    9) Cardinals (Jack Flaherty) at Reds (Luis Castillo)
    First pitch: 4:10 p.m.


    As always, the Reds open at home, and Castillo is a sleeper NL Cy Young Award pick on some lists. But the Cardinals get Flaherty, a sleeper pick himself, and Cards fans get a chance to see Nolan Arenado in a St. Louis uniform for the very first time. (Look away, Rockies fans.)


    10) Orioles (John Means) at Red Sox (Nathan Eovaldi)
    First pitch: 2:10 p.m. on Friday


    If you’re going off 2020 records, this game -- originally scheduled for today but postponed until Friday due to rain -- actually features a last-place team hosting the fourth-place team they are trying to chase down. Red Sox fans might find that prospect too depressing to process, but many projection systems think the Sox are more of a contender than the general consensus. And it sure will be nice to see some fans at Fenway Park again.


    11) Pirates (Chad Kuhl) at Cubs (Kyle Hendricks)
    First pitch: 2:20 p.m.


    The Pirates, outside of Ke’Bryan Hayes, are among the least dynamic teams in baseball this year, and the Cubs spent much of their offseason frustrating their fans. But there’s still a lot of talent in Chicago, and of course, countless questions about which players will be back in 2022. And again: It sure will be nice to see some fans at Wrigley Field again.


    12) Rays (Tyler Glasnow) at Marlins (Sandy Alcantara)
    First pitch: 4:10 p.m.


    The defending AL champs, minus their top two starters from a year ago (Charlie Morton and Blake Snell), face off against their in-state “rivals.” This is actually a matchup between two teams that reached the Division Series last year, though it doesn’t quite feel that way.


    13) Cleveland (Shane Bieber) at Tigers (Matthew Boyd)
    First pitch: 1:10 p.m.


    Last year’s AL Cy Young Award winner sets out to defend his crown against what might be the worst offense in baseball. The Tigers have some young exciting pitching, but you shouldn’t expect to see much of it in this game. This will be Cleveland’s first game without Francisco Lindor being part of its organization since June 5, 2011.


    14) Giants (Kevin Gausman) at Mariners (Marco Gonzales)
    First pitch: 10:10 p.m.


    A quirky Opening Day matchup with two teams in a period of transition, one that’s moving forward with veterans and one that’s doing it with youth. Despite those directions, these teams might be rather evenly matched this year. But the Giants, in that NL West division, have a lot less room for error.


    15) Rangers (Kyle Gibson) at Royals (Brad Keller)
    First pitch: 4:10 p.m.


    The Royals have made some nifty offseason moves and consider themselves potential contenders in the AL Central. They will have their first opportunity to try to prove they are right. The Rangers are rebuilding right now, and not exactly a natural rival to the Royals, either.




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