After an eventful spring training—mostly because every pitcher seemed to undergo Tommy John surgery—it is time to start talking about baseball games that matter!
That's right, boys and girls, the 2014 Major League Baseball season launches for real on Sunday night and Monday afternoon. We got a brief taste of things last weekend with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks in Australia, but now the entree has arrived.
The Dodgers get to kick things off again with a Sunday night matchup against the San Diego Padres, then 13 games are on the schedule for the real Opening Day. We've got you covered with matchups, times, networks and a few predictions for some of the bigger games.
|2014 MLB Opening Day Schedule (March 31)|
|Time (ET)||Road Team||Home Team||TV Info|
|1:05 p.m.||Chicago Cubs||Pittsburgh Pirates||ESPN|
|1:08 p.m.||Kansas City Royals||Detroit Tigers||FSMW/FSD|
|1:10 p.m.||Washington Nationals||New York Mets||MASN/SNY|
|2:05 p.m.||Philadelphia Phillies||Texas Rangers||CSNPhi/FSSW|
|2:10 p.m.||Atlanta Braves||Milwaukee Brewers||FSSO/FSWIS|
|3:05 p.m.||Boston Red Sox||Baltimore Orioles||ESPN2|
|4:10 p.m.||Minnesota Twins||Chicago White Sox||FSN/CSNChi|
|4:10 p.m.||St. Louis Cardinals||Cincinnati Reds||ESPN|
|4:10 p.m.||Toronto Blue Jays||Tampa Bay Rays||SportsNet/FSFL|
|7:05 p.m.||Colorado Rockies||Miami Marlins||ESPN2|
|9:40 p.m.||San Francisco Giants||Arizona Diamondbacks||Comcast SportsNet/FSAZ|
|10:05 p.m.||Cleveland Indians||Oakland Athletics||STO/CSNBayArea|
|10:05 p.m.||Seattle Mariners||Los Angeles Angels||ESPN2|
Top Matchup Predictions
Kansas City Royals at Detroit Tigers
Pitching matchup: James Shields (KC) vs. Justin Verlander (Det)
There was a time, not that long ago, when a matchup between the Royals and Tigers would barely register on the national radar.
That shouldn't be the case in 2014. The Royals are a much-improved team, with young stars Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Yordano Ventura and Salvador Perez looking to build off last year's 86-win campaign.
Shields is the perfect starting pitcher for the Royals, because he also flies under the radar. If someone were to ask you who led the AL in innings pitched last year, how long would it take before you got to Kansas City's Opening Day starter?
On the other side, the Detroit Tigers are still the bad boys of the American League Central and hoping to break through with the franchise's first championship since 1984.
Justin Verlander had, by his own lofty standards, a down year in 2013 with a 3.46 ERA, but new manager Brad Ausmus is sticking with the former AL MVP on Opening Day.
This division is Detroit's until someone takes it away. Kansas City has an excellent chance to catch the Tigers, but there's too much working in favor of the home team on Monday to pick against them.
Prediction: Tigers 4, Royals 2
Boston Red Sox at Baltimore Orioles
Pitching matchup: Jon Lester (Bos) vs. Chris Tillman (Bal)
The defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox start their title defense on the road against division rival Baltimore, where the Orioles will try to make an early statement with their best pitcher on the mound.
Chris Tillman had a breakout season in 2013, making the AL All-Star team and throwing over 200 innings for the first time in his career. The right-hander will be tested right out of the gate against a Boston lineup that led MLB in runs scored, doubles, on-base percentage and slugging percentage last year.
The Orioles will also be without their best player, Manny Machado, who is still battling issues with his surgically repaired knee and doesn't have a timetable to return.
Even without Machado, the Orioles do have one of last year's biggest surprises, Chris Davis, hitting in the middle of the order. He's got a ton of power and figured out how to use it more than ever last year, leading MLB with 53 home runs.
In Jon Lester the Red Sox have the right man on the mound to contain Davis, who hit just .235/.289/.475 against left-handed pitchers in 2013.
Prediction: Red Sox 5, Orioles 3
St. Louis Cardinals at Cincinnati Reds
Pitching matchup: Adam Wainwright (StL) vs. Johnny Cueto (Cin)
In another division rivalry to watch on Opening Day, the St. Louis Cardinals will unleash Adam Wainwright on the Cincinnati Reds for the first time in 2014. The big right-hander had the best year of his career last season, setting personal bests in innings (241.2), strikeouts (219), walks per nine innings (1.30) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (6.26).
The Reds are throwing their best pitcher, Johnny Cueto. The Dominican right-hander has always been able to dominate on the mound, including three consecutive years with an ERA under 3.00, but keeping him healthy has been an issue.
Cueto made just 11 starts in 2013 with multiple injuries to his latissimus dorsi. He also left a playoff start two years ago with an injured back. The Reds underwent some changes in the offseason, hiring a new manager, Bryan Price, and replacing Shin-Soo Choo with Billy Hamilton, so they need stability in the pitching staff to make it back to the postseason.
Unfortunately for the Reds, they have to open with a series against the deepest in baseball. Adding Jhonny Peralta to play shortstop solved the one glaring weakness the Cardinals had in the lineup.
Prediction: Cardinals 6, Reds 2
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