2018 MLB Schedule Release: 10 Games We're Most Excited About

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistSeptember 25, 2017

2018 MLB Schedule Release: 10 Games We're Most Excited About

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    The 2018 MLB schedule was released last week and now that we've had a chance to digest all of that information, it's time to do some calendar-circling.

    From a return to Hiram Bithorn Stadium in Puerto Rico to the All-Star Game in Washington D.C., there's no shortage of must-see action on tap for next year.

    We've highlighted the 10 individual games or series that we're most excited for in 2018.

March 29: Opening Day

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    There's nothing quite like Opening Day.

    For diehard fans and casual supporters alike, the start of a new baseball season goes hand in hand with the start of spring.

    However, the beginning of the 2018 season will be a bit different than what we've seen in recent years.

    March 29 represents the earliest start ever to an MLB seasonexcluding international events like the recent games played in Japan and Australia.

    An additional three or four days off have been added to each team's schedule, so the season itself stretches a bit further on the calendar.

    Also, it will be the first time since 1968 that every team is in action on the same day to start the season.

    So no more tripleheader of games to kick off the MLB slate before a full schedule of action the following day.

    Finally, a few notable potential season-opening pitching matchups:

    • Chris Sale (BOS) vs. Chris Archer (TB)
    • Madison Bumgarner (SF) vs. Clayton Kershaw (LAD)
    • Carlos Martinez (STL) vs. Noah Syndergaard (NYM)
    • Luis Severino (NYY) vs. Marcus Stroman (TOR)

    I'm already excited.

April 17: Chicago White Sox vs. Oakland Athletics (Free Admission)

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    Reggie Jackson was part of the first team to play in Oakland, 50 years ago next year.
    Reggie Jackson was part of the first team to play in Oakland, 50 years ago next year.Associated Press

    What's better than baseball?

    Free baseball.

    Next season the Oakland Athletics will be celebrating 50 years since the franchise, originally based in Philadelphia, moved from Kansas City to Oakland, and as part of the ongoing festivities, they will have free admission for the April 17 game against the Chicago White Sox.

    The A's rank 29th in the majors in average attendance (18,503) and neither team is expected to be anything close to a contender next year, so it's a good gimmick to get people in the door.

    It's no 10-cent beer night, but a cool idea nonetheless.

April 17-18: Minnesota Twins vs. Cleveland Indians (in Puerto Rico)

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    Hiram Bithorn Stadium
    Hiram Bithorn StadiumRicardo Arduengo/Associated Press

    Major League Baseball will also be returning to Puerto Rico in 2018.

    The last time regular-season games were played at Hiram Bithorn Stadium was in 2010, when the Florida Marlins and New York Mets made the trip for a three-game series.

    According to MLB.com: "Along with the 2010 series, MLB has made three other appearances at Hiram Bithorn Stadium. The Rangers and Blue Jays opened the 2001 season there, and in '03 and '04, the Montreal Expos played several regular-season games in San Juan."

    This time around, it will be the Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins matching up for two games.

    Here's a quick look at the notable Puerto Rican-born players on both sides:

    • SP Jose Berrios, MIN
    • SS Francisco Lindor, CLE
    • C Roberto Perez, CLE
    • LF Eddie Rosario, MIN
    • 1B Kennys Vargas, MIN

    After the passion and excitement that Team Puerto Rico brought to the World Baseball Classic last spring, it's a well-deserved treat for the fanbase.

May 22-23: Cleveland Indians vs. Chicago Cubs (2016 World Series Rematch)

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    We might not truly appreciate just how good the 2016 World Series was until decades from now.

    Extra innings in Game 7 after a rain delay?

    You'd be laughed off a studio lot if you tried to script that sort of drama.

    At any rate, the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians are not going anywhere, as they have two of the most talented rosters in baseball and are built for the long haul.

    That makes any regular-season matchup between the teams a rare treat and they'll meet twice in 2018 for a pair of two-game series in their respective ballparks.

    We'll go with the one at Wrigley Field in May for a spot on this list.

    The series in Cleveland is actually a month earlier, but Progressive Field inexplicably ranks 22nd in the majors in average attendance (25,269), so we'll go out on a limb and say the Chicago series will have an advantage in the atmosphere department.

June 12-13: Washington Nationals vs. New York Yankees (Bryce Harper Preview)

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    Mark Tenally/Associated Press

    "Be in the Hall of Fame, definitely. Play in Yankee Stadium. Play in the pinstripes. Be considered the greatest baseball player who ever lived. I can't wait."

    That's what Bryce Harper told Tom Verducci were his goals as part of his infamous Sports Illustrated cover story back in 2009.

    And that's all it took for many New York Yankees fans to accept it as a foregone conclusion that he'll be coming to the Bronx in free agency following the 2018 season.

    Maybe he will and maybe he won't, but either way, there will be plenty of hype surrounding his visit to Yankee Stadium in June.

    The 24-year-old has played two games in Yankee Stadium before, back in 2015. He went 3-for-8 with a double and a home run.

July 17: 89th MLB All-Star Game in Washington D.C.

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    For the first time since 1969, our nation's capital will play host to the MLB All-Star Game.

    And is there a better All-Star Game ambassador than Bryce Harper?

    Love him or hate him, he's one of the faces of the sport right now and he'll bring plenty of charisma and excitement to headlining the event.

    There's also a good chance that both Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg will be in the conversation to be the NL starter if recent performance is any indication, so that's a fun wrinkle as well.

    The Home Run Derby and All-Star Game are always two of the most entertaining events on the MLB schedule each season and you can bet that 2018 will be no exception.

July 19: St. Louis Cardinals vs. Chicago Cubs (Only Scheduled Game)

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    Even if you're squarely in the Yankees vs. Red Sox camp when it comes to identifying the best rivalry in baseball, the Cubs and Cardinals have earned their place in the conversation.

    In 2018, that rivalry will be asked to carry the Thursday after the All-Star Game.

    In years past, the two days immediately following the Midsummer Classic have been off days for the entire league before everyone returns to action on Friday, and for 28 teams, that'll still the case.

    However, for the Cubs and Cardinals, it will be a chance to perform in front of a national audience that's itching for the second half to get underway after tuning into the All-Star festivities.

    Simply put, it's one less day on the calendar that has zero baseball.

    Sign me up.

Aug. 3-5: Houston Astros vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (Top Interleague Matchup)

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    Not all interleague matchups are created equal.

    No one is getting jazzed for a Tampa Bay Rays vs. Philadelphia Phillies matchup in the middle of April.

    However, there's always a handful of series each season that reinforce the idea that interleague play is good for the sport.

    A perfect example is the Houston Astros heading to Dodger Stadium in August for a three-game set with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

    Whether it's Clayton Kershaw facing Jose Altuve or young sluggers Cody Bellinger and Carlos Correa taking aim at a picturesque backdrop, this three-game series will be must-see TV from the start.

    Heck, this could also wind up being a rematch of the 2017 World Series.

    You never know...

Sept. 10-12: Houston Astros vs. Detroit Tigers (Justin Verlander Returns to DET)

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    Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

    Justin Verlander will play his first game against his former team when the Houston Astros host the Detroit Tigers on July 13.

    However, it's his return to Detroit two months later that'll really be worth watching.

    Prior to being traded in August, Verlander had spent his entire career in the Tigers organization, dating back to going No. 2 overall in the 2004 draft.

    The 34-year-old went 183-114 with a 3.49 ERA in 13 seasons with the team, making six trips to the All-Star Game, winning AL Rookie of the Year in 2006 and capturing AL Cy Young and AL MVP honors in 2011.

    "Justin has been the face of consistency over the course of his career, and a pillar for baseball in the city of Detroit. He is someone who I believe to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. We wish Justin all the best as he starts a new chapter in his illustrious career," Tigers GM Al Avila said in a press release following the trade.

    Even if he's not lined up to start one of those games in Detroit, his return to Comerica Park will be special.

Sept. 30: Regular-Season Finale

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    Chris Sale and the Red Sox will welcome the Yankees to Fenway Park to close out the 2018 season.
    Chris Sale and the Red Sox will welcome the Yankees to Fenway Park to close out the 2018 season.Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    The MLB regular season will wrap up Sept. 30 and that seems like a good bookend for this article as well.

    As always, late-season schedules are ripe with interdivision matchups, and the league does a great job stacking potential contenders against one another to close out the season.

    In 2018, that will include Cardinals vs. Cubs at Wrigley Field and Yankees vs. Red Sox at Fenway Park.

    Anyone who called themselves a baseball fan on Sept. 28, 2011 knows how thrilling the final day of the regular season can be if a few things fall into place.

    Here's hoping for another thrilling finish in 2018.

           

    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, unless otherwise noted.