Ranking all 15 Opening Day pitching matchups
There is something perfect about an Opening Day where all 30 teams are playing, which is what we will get on Thursday. It’s the first time to see everybody, everything, everywhere, all at … well, not quite all at once, but certainly if you turn on your TV at 1 p.m. ET, you’re going to have 12 full hours of baseball happiness.
And there is no honor quite like your team handing you the ball on Day 1 to make you the Opening Day starter. Fifteen games, 30 Opening Day starters, 15 matchups. They’re all going to be fun. But here’s a ranking of the matchups (all times ET), from most compelling to least. And even the least is pretty compelling: It’s Opening Day, after all.
1) Mets at Marlins, 4:10 p.m.
Max Scherzer vs. Sandy Alcantara
You can be forgiven for thinking this would be a matchup of the two defending Cy Young winners, but Justin Verlander will be starting the Mets’ home opener on April 6. That gives us Scherzer, a three-time Cy Young Award winner himself of course, against Alcantara, making his fourth straight Opening Day appearance for the Marlins. With these two throwing and the pitch timer, might this game be over by 6 p.m.?
2) Giants at Yankees, 1:05 p.m.
Logan Webb vs. Gerrit Cole
The sort of classic Opening Day matchup that would have been unimaginable two decades ago. But now Interleague Play happens pretty much every day and this feels like the sort of matchup we should root for every year. Webb is one of the most underappreciated pitchers in baseball, but Cole is the perpetual Yankees ace, one with even more pressure on him than usual now that new signee (and of course former Giant) Carlos Rodón will start the year on the injured list. Seriously, though, Yankees-Giants at Yankee Stadium. Now that’s a sign the season has begun.
3) Phillies at Rangers, 4:05 p.m.
Aaron Nola vs. Jacob deGrom
What’s deGrom going to look like in a Rangers uniform? What’s he going to look like at all? Remember: He was healthy at the end of last year, but he wasn’t exactly Jacob deGrom. The Rangers will spend the next five years hoping they get the real one. Nola is basically the opposite of deGrom as a pitcher -- reliable, steady, consistent though with flashes of brilliance. (Fun fact: This will be Nola’s sixth straight Opening Day start, the longest active streak in MLB.)
4) Guardians at Mariners, 10:10 p.m.
Shane Bieber vs. Luis Castillo
A quietly terrific nightcap of a full day of baseball, with two of the best pitchers of the past five years, representing two teams who reached the ALDS last year, facing off. This is Bieber’s fourth straight Opening Day start for Cleveland, and it’s Castillo’s third nod overall: He pitched two in Cincinnati. Both teams are absolutely counting on these pitchers this year.
5) Angels at A's, 10:07 p.m.
Shohei Ohtani vs. Kyle Muller
No offense to poor Kyle Muller, but this is all about Shohei. Mike Trout will certainly be grateful to be playing center field behind him rather than facing him at the plate. That’s now all these A’s hitters’ burdens to bear.
6) D-backs at Dodgers, 10:10 p.m.
Zac Gallen vs. Julio Urías
Madison Bumgarner has made the past three Opening Day starts for Arizona (and made five for San Francisco before that), but it’s tough to make an argument against clear ace Gallen. The best stat here is that the Dodgers have now had five different Opening Day starters in five years: Hyun Jin Ryu, Dustin May, Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler and now Urías … who was a part of the rotation all five of these years.
7) White Sox at Astros, 7:08 p.m.
Dylan Cease vs. Framber Valdez
Lucas Giolito has made the past three Opening Day starts for the White Sox, but it’s tough to argue with going with Cease here, who made the leap to become one of the best starters in baseball last year. Valdez is actually making his second Opening Day start in a row; he led off for the Astros last year, not Verlander.
8) Brewers at Cubs, 2:20 p.m.
Corbin Burnes vs. Marcus Stroman
Burnes is going for his fourth straight season of finishing in the top 10 in Cy Young voting. Stroman is the pitch-to-contact starter that the Cubs are modeling their whole rotation (and their revamped defense) around. And remember: He was the last World Baseball Classic MVP before Ohtani!
9) Rockies at Padres, 9:40 p.m.
Germán Márquez vs. Blake Snell
With hometown kid Joe Musgrove still recovering from a broken toe that occurred during a weight room mishap, and Yu Darvish getting up to speed after the World Baseball Classic, Snell gets the call. No matter who is one the mound, Petco Park is going to be aflame for this one: Remember, the Padres actually had to stop selling season tickets because there was so much demand. Márquez and the Rockies are going to be facing a hostile atmosphere.
10) Blue Jays at Cardinals, 4:10 p.m.
Alek Manoah vs. Miles Mikolas
Adam Wainwright’s injury stops him from the ritualistic home-opener start he has made a number of times throughout his career. Mikolas, who looked terrific in the World Baseball Classic, makes his second Opening Day start instead. He’ll face the Blue Jays All-Star who was third in Cy Young voting and, at 25, is just getting started.
11) Twins at Royals, 4:10 p.m.
Pablo López vs. Zack Greinke
The Twins had a lot of options to go with here, ultimately landing on the new acquisition from Miami whom they’d love to install as their new ace. But the real fun here is Greinke, who is starting Opening Day for the Royals for the second consecutive year and the third time in his career … his first was way back in 2010. (That lineup included Yuniesky Betancourt and Rick Ankiel.) This is eight Opening Day start overall, and probably his last, in what is likely his last season. Enjoy every second of him while you can.
12) Braves at Nationals, 1:05 p.m.
Max Fried vs. Patrick Corbin
This is the second consecutive year that Corbin is the Opening Day starter for the Nats, though that probably says more about the rebuilding Nats than it does about Corbin. This is the third consecutive Opening Day start for Fried, who, may we remind, has started (and won) a World Series clincher in that time as well. And last year he came this close to winning a Cy Young.
13) Orioles at Red Sox, 2:10 p.m.
Kyle Gibson vs. Corey Kluber
Gibson ended up being the biggest-ticket item for the Orioles in the offseason, and even if you wanted them to do more than that, Gibson’s a solid pitcher and will provide valuable innings for this otherwise young Orioles staff. Kluber gets the call ahead of Chris Sale, who hasn’t made an Opening Day start for the Red Sox since 2019, which is the same year Kluber last started on Opening Day, for Cleveland.
14) Tigers at Rays, 3:10 p.m.
Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Shane McClanahan
There really isn’t anywhere to go but up for the Tigers this year, and they’ll be looking for Rodriguez to eat up as many innings as possible, as early as Day 1. McClanahan was the AL Cy Young frontrunner for the first half of last season before fading a bit, but he’s still as entrenched as any starter on the Rays can be.
15) Pirates at Reds, 4:10 p.m.
Mitch Keller vs. Hunter Greene
It says a lot about how great Opening Day is that even our lowest-ranked matchup has a lot to be excited about. For starters, Cincinnati is Opening Day’s traditional home. Keller is once again trying to turn the corner in Pittsburgh -- perhaps surprisingly, this is his first Opening Day start -- but the real excitement here is for Greene, one of the better starters in baseball down the stretch last year. The Reds hope this is the first of many, many Opening Day starts for him.