The Texas Rangers and Houston Astros will open the 2013 MLB season Sunday night, but hours later Opening Day will truly arrive, with 12 games scheduled for Monday.
The major league's best pitchers will be on display, as well as some of the sport's big names, who have been perfecting their games this offseason. Whether you love rivalries, classic pitching duels or just the return of spring baseball, Monday's slate has something for everyone to enjoy.
Below, we'll power rank the five must-see matchups fans should be watching for on Monday.
*Click here to view the full 2013 MLB Opening Day schedule.
No. 5: Chicago Cubs vs. Pittsburgh Pirates, Monday, April 1, at 1:35 p.m. ET
Two tortured franchises will begin what they hope will be successful 2013 campaigns on Monday afternoon in the Steel City when the Chicago Cubs visit the Pirates.
The NL Central rivals both struggled in 2012, but the Pirates show tons of promise with stars like Andrew McCutchen and A.J. Burnett poised for strong seasons. On the other side, the bar is low for the Cubs, who ranked toward the bottom in almost every important statistical category a season ago, including runs and batting average.
There are more marquee matchups on Monday outside this one, but Cubs-Pirates has excellent potential for excited baseball fans in the early afternoon.
No. 4: Philadelphia Phillies vs. Atlanta Braves, Monday, April 1, at 7 p.m. ET
The Phillies were a colossal disappointment a year ago, but that's the beauty of Opening Day. Every team is alive in the hunt for a world title.
Philadelphia will travel south to Atlanta on Monday to take on the NL East-rival Braves, who earned the NL Wild Card last fall. Atlanta finished 13 games better than Jimmy Rollins and Philly in 2012, but will have to do it this season without legend Chipper Jones in the lineup.
This game, which can be seen on ESPN2, will feature Cole Hamels and Tim Hudson on the mound.
No. 3: Los Angeles Angels vs. Cincinnati Reds, April 1, at 4:10 p.m. ET
Many thought L.A. Angels rookie outfielder Mike Trout should have won American League MVP honors last season. On Monday, Trout will begin his journey to prove voters wrong against the Cincinnati Reds, who feature one of the game's brightest stars in Joey Votto.
In addition to Trout and Votto, superstar bats Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton will step to the plate looking to infuse the Great American Ball Park with some energy.
That said, fantasy baseball owners will want to take in as much of this matchup as possible.
The Angels and Reds are serious playoff contenders with a plethora of individual talent, and Monday's matchup is a potential World Series preview.
No. 2: San Francisco Giants vs. Los Angeles Dodgers, Monday, April 1, at 4 p.m. ET
The defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants will begin their quest to repeat this season on Monday afternoon in Los Angeles against the NL West-rival Dodgers.
The two clubs battled all season long in 2012 for the division crown. Despite L.A.'s huge midseason roster moves, the Giants were able to win the division for the second time in three years on their way to winning the World Series for the second time in three years.
In addition to getting an early look at the reigning champs, fans will get an up-close look at two of the best young pitchers in baseball as Matt Cain is set to square off against Clayton Kershaw.
The two studs combined to win 30 games last season and each earned All-Star bids.
No. 1: Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees, Monday, April 1, at 1 p.m. ET
The best Opening Day matchup on Monday is no doubt Red Sox-Yankees. The two bitter foes will renew their AL East rivalry on Monday afternoon in the Big Apple, where Jon Lester and CC Sabathia will go head-to-head on the mound.
Adding to the intrigue, MLB on Fox's recent poll suggests that neither team is the favorite to win the division this year:
RESULTS: 28.1% of you said the @bluejays will win the AL East. 2) Rays 25% 3) Orioles 18.8% 4) Red Sox 15.6% 4) Yankees 12.5%— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) March 29, 2013
If you're not working Monday afternoon, or can sneak away for a few moments, you'll definitely want to check this Opening Day showdown out on ESPN, as both clubs will be aiming to start the season on a high note, but more importantly making sure that the other starts 0-1.
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