Opening Day #4: Previewing Today’s Action

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It all started with Mariners vs. A’s in Tokyo, the first meaningful games of the 2012 regular season. That was the literal “Opening Day” because before that there hadn’t been meaningful baseball since the end of the World Series. But the national media didn’t care because it was the Mariners, and the A’s, and it was in Tokyo, and it started at three in the morning. Opening Day, sure, but hardly the prototypical bells-and-whistles season-opening extravaganza. THAT Opening Day was Wednesday, when the Marlins broke in their enormous new neon stadium with a loss to the defending world champion Cardinals in a goofy one-game series. Yesterday was Opening Day, too, as several more teams played their first games of the season. You’d think three Opening Days would be enough, but MLB has other plans, having scheduled another series of exciting season-opening contests for today. Some of these teams played yesterday and some of them played last week, but nonetheless, it’s going to be an exciting day of Major League Baseball. Here’s a quick, handy guide to all the action.

White Sox @ Rangers

John Danks vs. Colby Lewis

(in progress)

Colby Lewis used to play in America, where he wasn’t very good, then went to Japan and transformed himself into a useful pitcher. He’s been back for a few years and has been effective, earning opening day honors for the defending AL champs. He had a huge spike in homers allowed last year, which may or may not be his fault. John Danks was going to be traded but got a shiny new extension instead. This matchup isn’t particularly compelling because the Rangers are our natural rivals – enemies! – and the White Sox are dull. Tune in if you really can’t get enough of Adam Dunn.

Twins @ Orioles

Carl Pavano vs. Jake Arrieta

12:05 PST

J.J. Hardy squares off against the team which so foolishly cast him aside as Carl Pavano’s mustache attempts to keep his strikeouts to a minimum. This is a joke about Twins pitching. Jake Arrieta is your prototypical opening day starter except that he’s terribly inexperienced, and potentially terrible. Who is Jake Arrieta, you ask? Who knows! Tune in and find out!

Yankees @ Rays

C.C. Sabathia vs. James Shields

12:10 PST

FInally a compelling match-up. I don’t know if you love the Yankees or hate the Yankees but you certainly don’t harbor neutral thoughts about the Yankees, which makes this game exciting before even mentioning their opponents. If you’re one for story lines and narratives, hold your breath until the attendance is announced. If it’s anything short of “Tropicana Field attendance record!” then expect two thousand articles tomorrow about the New Jersey Rays and how the people of St. Pete need to learn to appreciate what they’ve got. James Shields and C.C. Sabathia are two of the game’s most electric arms, although I’ll admit its hard to think of C.C. Sabathia as “electrifying.” This game marks the unofficial beginning of “Cano or Zobrist?” season, as the two begin their semi-annual quest to out-WAR each other. Also, this.

Cardinals @ Brewers

Jaimie Garcia vs. Yovani Gallardo

1:10 PST

This rematch of last year’s division race (and NLCS!) pits two big teams against each other in another of the day’s can’t-miss games. Lance Berkman and Matt Gamel are the starting first basemen for these two clubs, which seems completely inconspicuous and non-noteworthy to me. If Gamel homers, look for two thousand articles tomorrow morning commending the Crew for boldly refusing to throw $214 million at the former Prince of the city. Gallardo gets the opening day nod over Zach Greinke because the Brewers are beginning the process of detachment to ensure no tears are shed when Greinke signs a $250 million deal with the Dodgers this November. Relax, relax! I’m joking! There are probably other reasons, too!

Rockies @ Astros

Jeremy Guthrie vs. Wandy Rodriguez

4:05 PST

Don’t laugh, but I think the Astros are going to be fascinating this year. Stop laughing! They really will be! Wandy Rodriguez, it could be argued, is far and away their best player. Wandy Rodriguez has been but a tick over league average the last couple years, and is likely the best player on the Astros. J.D. Drew might be up there and Bud Norris isn’t terrible, but the Astros as currently constructed are the worst team we’ve seen in a while; well, the worst team we’ve seen since 2003. Jeremy Guthrie takes the mound for Colorado, who will hand the ball to Jamie Moyer tomorrow. Remember how Ubaldo Jimenez got Cy Young votes in a Rockies uniform two seasons ago? Neither do the Rockies.

Giants @ Diamondbacks

Tim Lincecum vs. Ian Kennedy

4:10 PST

These two clubs, you’ll recall, battled for NL West supremacy for much of last season with the upstart D-Backs triumphing over the punchless Giants. Nonetheless, the Giants won a bunch of games last year with a freakishly Mariners-esque lineup, and now they’ve got Buster Posey back. The Freak is still a joy to watch and despite all the attention to his rotation-mate’s massive new contract there’s plenty of reason for Giants fans to feel comfortable about the prospects of Lincecum and Cain both sticking around in SF for a while. Arizona, meanwhile, has a developing big two of their own in Kennedy and Ian Hudson and a young, talented lineup that showed what they were capable of last year. Will they maintain this year? Who knows! They’ll play the games, and we’ll find out!

Royals @ Angels

Bruce Chen vs. Jered Weaver

7:05 PST

Tonight Bruce Chen will become the first American League pitcher to face new American Leaguer Albert Pujols, at home nonetheless. The Angels signed Albert Pujols to a ten-year deal this winter, in case anybody had forgotten. That, as has been pointed out before, makes the Angels a much better team, as does the addition of shiny new #3 starter C.J. Wilson. The Royals are supposed to “surprise” people this season, but Bruce Chen is the deserving opening day starter. Eric Hosmer is a fun guy to watch and it’s hard to root against a team with such a dismal recent history, especially when they’re playing the god damned Angels. Go Royals! Suck you some Angels blood!

Dodgers @ Padres

Chad Billingsley vs. Cory Luebke

7:05 PST

The $2.15 billion Dodgers turn to Billingsley, who is soooooo not Clayton Kershaw, in an attempt to knock off the Padres at Petco. Both of these teams have been mentioned as “sleepers” a lot lately, which is just a sly way of saying that neither of these teams is currently projected to be very good. The Padres were the big, exciting surprise of 2010 and built a respectable line-up while everyone was busy writing Prince Fielder’s name in the sand with their fingers all winter. The pitching’s still decent despite the Mat Latos trade and this time, unlike in 2010, they actually seem poised for a surprise season. Does that make sense? Can a team really be predictably unpredictable? The Dodgers are brought up as a sleeper because they have one great hitter, one great pitcher and a huge-and-ever-growing collection of mediocre utility infielders. Juan Rivera fans, you’re going to love this year’s Los Angeles Dodgers, because they’re full of him and players just like him.

The only other game going on today is the Mariners game, which you will watch, and I will watch. But if for some reason (no runs) you stop watching that, there’s plenty else to choose from. Until then, happy baseball! 

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