SAN FRANCISCO -- Will the Marlins assert themselves as contenders in the National League East after making several offensive upgrades over the winter? Will the Giants be able to sustain their stunning 2021 success and defend their division crown in the loaded NL West?
Those quests will begin on Friday afternoon, when both clubs kick off their 2022 seasons with an Opening Day matchup at Oracle Park.
This will mark the second time the Marlins and Giants meet on Opening Day. In 2000, Alex Fernandez outdueled former 1997 World Series teammate Livan Hernandez in a 6-4 Marlins victory in South Florida.
The Giants, who emerged as one of the biggest surprises in baseball by winning a franchise-record 107 games last year, will raise their NL West championship banner during a pregame ceremony at Oracle Park, yet they’re poised to enter the year as underdogs in their own division. Still, they’re ready to exceed their projections and prove their magical 2021 campaign was no fluke.
Following a 95-loss campaign in 2021, the Marlins were active during the Hot Stove season with the hope of competing in the NL East. They've improved one of the Majors' weakest offenses by signing Jorge Soler and Avisaíl García and solidified the catcher position by dealing for Gold Glove Award winner Jacob Stallings. Early-season injuries exposed Miami's depth last year, so Miami also traded for utility man Joey Wendle.
When is the game and how can I watch it?
First pitch is scheduled for 1:35 p.m. PT on Friday and will be available on MLB.TV. The game will be televised on both NBC Sports Bay Area (for Giants fans) and Bally Sports Florida (for Marlins fans).
The starting lineups
Marlins: With a right-hander on the mound for San Francisco, manager Don Mattingly went with Wendle at third base over Brian Anderson in order to get another left-handed bat in the lineup. Throughout the spring, Mattingly noted that the Marlins would work favorable matchups and keep players fresh over the course of the season. That would mean varying orders depending on the opposing pitcher and who is playing that day. One thing is for certain: Soler and García will be near the top of the lineup. Soler, who signed one week into spring, has been leading off. With a lengthened lineup, no one guy needs to be relied upon every game, and returners like Garrett Cooper and Jesús Aguilar should reap the benefit. It also will lessen the pressure on youngsters like Jazz Chisholm Jr. and Jesús Sánchez being surrounded by proven veterans.
Giants: Rookie Joey Bart got the start behind the plate to catch Logan Webb, giving the Giants a homegrown battery to help usher in their post-Buster Posey era.
Who are the starting pitchers?
Marlins: Sandy Alcantara will be making his third consecutive Opening Day start, joining Josh Johnson (2010-12) and Josh Beckett ('03-05) as the only pitchers in franchise history to do so. Miami has gone 1-1 in Alcantara's previous outings, even though he has allowed only one earned run. The 26-year-old flamethrower has a 2.84 ERA in three career games (two starts) at Oracle Park, including two-thirds of an inning in relief in his MLB debut for the Cardinals in '17. Alcantara, who signed a five-year extension in the offseason, is coming off a strong '21 in which he was one of only three Major Leaguers to record 200 innings and 200 strikeouts.
According to Statcast, Alcantara ranked in the 98th percentile for fastball velocity and 95th percentile for chase rate. Since being named an All-Star in 2019, he ranks seventh in the Majors in innings and 16th in FanGraph's version of WAR. Once known for his lack of command, Alcantara's walks have gone down and his strikeouts have gone up over the past three seasons. Underrated on the national scene, he is poised to continue evolving into one of the game's best arms.
Giants: At 25, Logan Webb is the youngest member of the Giants’ starting rotation, but he was the obvious choice to start on Opening Day. Webb earned the assignment on the strength of his breakthrough 2021 campaign, when he blossomed into one of the best pitchers in baseball. After going 10-0 with a 2.42 ERA over his final 20 appearances of the regular season, Webb continued to dominate in the playoffs, when he stymied the vaunted Dodgers in a pair of brilliant starts in the NL Division Series. Webb, a native of Rocklin, Calif., is expecting to have plenty of friends and family in the stands to watch him make his first career Opening Day start, an added bonus for the burgeoning ace.
How might the bullpens line up after the starter?
Marlins: With the expectation Alcantara will go deep in the game, Miami can go straight to its late-inning relievers. Mattingly has mentioned that the club likely will follow a closer-by-committee approach without a proven ninth-inning guy, and the Marlins added two options -- Cole Sulser and Tanner Scott -- in a trade with Baltimore. That will help with Dylan Floro (15 saves in 2021) starting the season on the injured list. Anthony Bender, who didn't make last year's Opening Day roster after being discovered in independent ball, wound up posting a 150 ERA+, three saves and 12 holds in a breakout rookie season. Former closer Anthony Bass and southpaw Richard Bleier are other high-leverage arms.
Giants: Kapler hasn’t revealed who will be his preferred ninth-inning option to start the season, but he’s named Camilo Doval, Jake McGee and Tyler Rogers as candidates to close out games this year. Other key bullpen cogs include Dominic Leone, José Álvarez, Jarlín García, Zack Littell and John Brebbia.
Any injuries of note?
Marlins: As previously mentioned, Floro's late start to a throwing program means he won't be on the Opening Day roster. The veteran right-hander tied for the club lead with 15 saves in 2021.
Giants: Longoria and La Stella are expected to open the season on the injured list, along with LaMonte Wade Jr., who is nursing left knee inflammation and bone bruising. Despite Wade’s injury, the Giants will still have the option of starting three left-handed bats in the outfield -- Yastrzemski, Pederson and Duggar -- against right-handed pitching.
Who's hot and who's not?
Marlins: The sample sizes were extremely small during an expedited Grapefruit League schedule, so take these spring stats with even more of a grain of salt. For what it's worth, Soler absolutely raked despite missing the first week as a free agent. Anderson, who has played four positions (third base, left, center and right) this spring, had the lowest OPS among qualifying Marlins.
Giants: Brandon Crawford went 0-for-10 with six strikeouts to start the spring, but he finished strong, going 4-for-10 with two home runs and four RBIs over his next three games. Belt, meanwhile, still seems to be trying to find his timing after being slowed by a knee issue, going hitless in his first six exhibition at-bats with four strikeouts.
Anything else fans might want to know?
• This will mark the first time the Giants and Marlins have fielded an Opening Day lineup with designated hitters (excluding the abbreviated 2020 season).
• The Marlins are 12-17 on Opening Day in franchise history, with a 2-6 record on the road. Their most recent victory came on July 24, 2020, when Alcantara allowed one earned run over 6 2/3 innings against the Phillies.
• The Giants have had 14 different players start in left field on Opening Day since Barry Bonds played his final season with the club in 2007, a streak that seems destined to stay alive this year. Austin Slater was the 2021 Opening Day left fielder, but he’s unlikely to start against the right-handed Alcantara.