Major League Baseball whetted fans' appetites on Wednesday by announcing game times for its master 2018 regular-season schedule, which will get underway on Thursday, March 29, with the first full docket of Opening Day games in 50 years.
ESPN will provide extensive Opening Day coverage that begins with the Cubs visiting the Marlins at 12:40 p.m. ET, followed by the defending World Series-champion Astros visiting the intrastate-rival Rangers at 3:35 p.m. ET. The quadrupleheader on ESPN continues with the defending National League-champion Dodgers hosting the NL West-rival Giants at 7:08 p.m. ET, and then the Indians at the Mariners getting underway at 10:10 p.m. ET.
The most recent time the regular season began on a Thursday was 2011, and that also was the most recent time that Cincinnati played its "traditional" opener on the actual first day of the season. Both will happen again in 2018, as Joey Votto and the Reds will host the Nationals at 4:10 p.m. ET.
Jackie Robinson Day will be celebrated throughout MLB on Sunday, April 15, and that will include a 4:10 p.m. ET start for the D-backs and Dodgers in Los Angeles.
The Astros and Yankees, who went the distance in the 2017 American League Championship Series, will play a four-game set at Minute Maid Park, beginning at 8:10 p.m. ET on Monday, April 30. Those clubs will meet for a three-game series at Yankee Stadium beginning at 1:05 p.m. ET on Memorial Day, Monday, May 28.
In a rematch of the past two NL Championship Series, the Cubs will host the Dodgers at Wrigley Field for a three-game series beginning at 8:05 p.m. ET on Monday, June 18. The clubs will reunite a week later for a four-game set at Dodger Stadium, starting at 10:10 p.m. ET on Monday, June 25.
The Cardinals will visit the Cubs starting at 7:05 p.m. ET on Thursday, July 19 -- marking one of the most unique changes to this year's schedule. Per the recent Collective Bargaining Agreement, players will have three added off-days in 2018, and they no longer will play an ESPN Sunday Night Baseball game on the Sunday before the All-Star Game. That accommodation, which will relax travel demands for some All-Stars, means the addition of a Thursday night game on what largely has been an idle day across MLB.
The MLB Little League Classic will return on Aug. 19 to Historic Bowman Field in Williamsport, Pa., with a 7 p.m. ET start time between the Mets and Phillies.
The final day of the 2018 regular season, which features 12 divisional matchups, is scheduled for Sunday, September 30. For the fourth consecutive year, all games played on the final scheduled day of the regular season will begin at 3 p.m. ET, with potential postseason ramifications at stake.
How about a pitch from Jose Urena to Benjamin Zobrist to start the 2018 season? We now know the first pitch will happen at Marlins Park, and that first matchup is the likeliest scenario, at least for the moment. Urena is listed as the Marlins' ace in Joe Frisaro's rotation analysis, although Miami could make more trades and will have plenty of roster battles. Zobrist is batting leadoff in Carrie Muskat's projected Cubs starting lineup.
In special international events, the Twins will host the Indians on April 17-18 at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and the Padres will host the Dodgers at Estadio de Béisbol Monterrey on May 4-6 in Monterrey, Mexico.
In the 110th anniversary season of the 1908 Fall Classic, the Cubs and Tigers will meet for a two-game series at Wrigley Field on July 3-4, as well as a two-game series at Comerica Park on Aug. 21-22.
Interleague Play throughout the season will feature the AL East vs. NL East, AL Central vs. NL Central and AL West vs. NL West. Notable series feature renewals of four World Series matchups over the past 10 years, including Phillies-Rays (April 13-15 at Tropicana Field, sans Evan Longoria); Cubs-Indians (April 24-25 at Progressive Field, May 22-23 at Wrigley); Yankees-Phillies (June 25-27 at Citizens Bank Park); and Giants-Rangers (Aug. 24-26 at AT&T Park).
In the 30th anniversary season of the 1988 World Series, the Dodgers and the A's will play a two-game series at Dodger Stadium on April 10-11, as well as a two-game series at Oakland Coliseum on Aug. 7-8.
The 89th All-Star Game presented by Mastercard will be hosted by the Nationals on Tuesday, July 17.
Overall, ESPN will broadcast 10 games over the first six days of the 2018 season. Those matchups will include five of the 10 clubs that participated in the 2017 postseason.
FOX will begin its national coverage on March 31 when the Rangers host the Astros at Globe Life Park in Arlington at 4:07 p.m. ET on FS1. MLB on TBS live game coverage will return on July 8 and continue each Sunday through the end of the regular season.
MLB Network will have extensive coverage of Opening Day, featuring 17 hours of live coverage beginning at 9 a.m. ET on March 29, followed the next day by the return of its regular-season programming lineup of MLB Central, High Heat with Christopher Russo, The Rundown, MLB Now, Intentional Talk, MLB Tonight and Quick Pitch, with live look-ins at games in progress, previews, highlights and analysis.