All 15 Opening Day matchups, ranked

April 6th, 2022

You cannot, alas, beam all 15 Major League Baseball games of these upcoming Opening Days on Thursday and Friday directly into your brain at once. Trust me: I’ve tried. (Someday, perhaps technology will grant us a more glorious future).

Until we can download all games into our cerebral cortex at once, thus, allow me to help you with something resembling a viewer’s guide. Every team will play on Thursday or Friday -- 10 teams actually play both days -- and we all must find a way to prioritize. The easy answer for which game to watch: the one involving your favorite team. But in lieu of that, here is a ranking of the best matchups of every team’s first game.

Starting pitchers -- who account for a lot of these rankings -- are listed in parentheses. All times listed are ET.

1. Astros (Framber Valdez) at Angels (Shohei Ohtani)
9:38 p.m. Thursday

This is potentially a preview of the key American League West race this year, depending on whether or not the Angels can get their pitching to hold up, but let’s not kid ourselves here: It’s Ohtani! On Opening Day! Oh, and he’ll also have Mike Trout right there next to him, something he rarely had in 2021. The Astros are the defending American League champions, and they are still playing second fiddle to the Ohtani story. Can Shohei possibly do it again?

2. Red Sox (Nathan Eovaldi) at Yankees (Gerrit Cole)
1:05 p.m. Friday

I hear you, I hear you: There goes that national media again, hyping Yankees-Red Sox, East Coast bias, when will they stop with the unrelenting AL East hype? Well, first off, you’re reading a native Midwesterner who lives in Georgia. But more to the point: Who wouldn’t want to watch this game? These longtime rivals, who just met in the postseason last year, are two of the top contenders in the best division in baseball, and they’ve both had offseasons that were a little frustrating to their most diehard fans, making a rough start particularly perilous. It’s possible one of these teams is going to finish fourth this year. Whether you’re in Sheboygan or Truth or Consequences, N.M., this is a game you’ll want to watch.

3. Mariners (Robbie Ray) at Twins (Joe Ryan)
4:10 p.m. Friday

So many storylines here! These were two of the more active teams this offseason, and they’re exactly the sort of teams you want to see this active. The Mariners seem well-positioned to snap that longest-in-North-American-pro-sports playoff drought, with their brand new Cy Young winner on the mound and top prospect Julio Rodríguez poised to make his MLB debut. And on the other side of the field … Carlos Correa shocked the baseball world by signing with the Twins, and now grateful Twins fans get to see him in their uniform for the first time.

4. Dodgers (Walker Buehler) at Rockies (Kyle Freeland)
4:10 p.m. Friday

One of the more anticipated moments of each Opening Day is seeing star players in new uniforms, and no matchup offers more of that than this one. The Dodgers are thought to be far and away the best team in baseball, and now they’re showing off their new toy Freddie Freeman. (And they have a lot of toys.) The Rockies have a new toy themselves in Kris Bryant, the centerpiece of what they’re building in Denver.

5. Pirates (J.T. Brubaker) at Cardinals (Adam Wainwright)
4:15 p.m. Thursday

Originally, before the lockout pushed everything back a week, the Cardinals were supposed to open in Pittsburgh, rather than in St. Louis. But now that Albert Pujols has returned to St. Louis, having Opening Day at Busch Stadium is irresistible. Matchup-wise, Brubaker is the sort of starter -- right-handed, throws hard, lots of sliders -- who gives Pujols trouble at this point in his career. During the season, Pujols won’t get a lot of starts against pitchers like Brubaker. But Opening Day? At Busch? With Adam Wainwright on the mound and Yadier Molina behind the plate? All (probably) in their last season? It’s must-see in every possible way.

6. Reds (Tyler Mahle) at Braves (Max Fried)
8:08 p.m. Thursday

You may vaguely remember this, but the Braves won the World Series last year. It was pretty exciting! They’ll be raising the banner and giving out the rings on Thursday night, and even though some of the key particulars won’t be there (no Freddie Freeman, no Jorge Soler, no Joc Pederson and his pearls), it will nevertheless be an emotional night for the Braves and their fans. It has been 26 years since they’ve had a night like this. Soak it in, Braves fans.

7. Mets (Tylor Megill) at Nationals (Patrick Corbin)
7:05 p.m. Thursday

This could have been No. 1 on the list. We could have seen Jacob deGrom in his first game back after injury last year. We could have seen Max Scherzer against his longtime teammates. But no: Stupid injuries. deGrom is now out at least a month with a shoulder ailment and Scherzer won't fill in because of a hamstring issue, but he may go on Friday. If we can't have deGrom or Scherzer, at least seeing Juan Soto, Nelson Cruz (with his new team!), Pete Alonso and Francisco Lindor is a nice consolation prize.

8. Brewers (Corbin Burnes) at Cubs (Kyle Hendricks)
2:20 p.m. Thursday

First off, they’re at Wrigley Field, which will remind you right off the bat of just how happy you are that baseball is back. But this is also the defending Cy Young winner going for Milwaukee against a Cubs team that is a little more fun than you might think. The star attraction will be Seiya Suzuki, the new Cubs slugger they signed from Japan who may become very popular in Wrigleyville very fast. And don’t ignore the Brewers here: They’re still the NL Central favorites, after all.

9. Marlins (Sandy Alcantara) at Giants (Logan Webb)
4:35 p.m. Friday

A sneaky-good matchup of two of the better young pitchers in the game. The Marlins have a young pitching rotation that’s the envy of almost every team in baseball; the Giants won 107 games last year and they would love to have the Marlins’ rotation. Speaking of those Giants, they bring back most of the players who led to that improbable season, sans Buster Posey and Kevin Gausman. Whether or not the Giants can pull another rabbit out of their hat is one of the central questions of the 2022 season. We’ll get an immediate sense on Friday.

10. Rangers (Jon Gray) at Blue Jays (José Berríos)
7:07 p.m. Friday

The Blue Jays, at last, get to play all 81 of their home games in Toronto this season. Blue Jays fans have missed out on a pretty wonderful team for a couple of years; now they get perhaps the best version of it, all year. The Rangers get to debut their Corey Seager/Marcus Semien infield too, with Semien making a return to where he played to a top-three AL MVP finish last year.

11. White Sox (Lucas Giolito) at Tigers (Eduardo Rodriguez)
1:10 p.m. Friday

The White Sox look primed to run this division again -- though that Lance Lynn knee injury news isn’t great -- but the real fun of this one might be seeing Spencer Torkelson, the Tigers’ top prospect and exciting new hope for the whole franchise, starting at first base. This could be the present ruler of the AL Central against the future one.

12. Guardians (Shane Bieber) at Royals (Zack Greinke)
4:10 p.m. Thursday

No big deal, just MLB’s No. 1 prospect (Royals third baseman Bobby Witt Jr.) debuting on Opening Day. It’s also the first time we’re seeing the Guardians in action, with the new logo and new name and all of it. That’s progress, anyway, and something new. And the best part might actually be seeing Greinke back in a Royals uniform for the first time since 2010. These teams will be fighting to stand out in the AL Central this year, and this will be an early look at what they may be capable of.

13. Orioles (John Means) at Rays (Shane McClanahan)
3:10 p.m. Friday

The Rays will have Wander Franco on this Opening Day, the first of many Opening Days, and that’s exciting enough on its own. This is a fascinating division, and you can’t help but wonder if the Rays are going to sneak up on everybody again. As for the Orioles … there is reason to believe that their ascent starts now.

14. A’s (Frankie Montas) at Phillies (Aaron Nola)
3:05 p.m. Friday

Are Phillies fans going to be OK if they don’t reach the playoffs this year? They are now the team with the second-longest playoff drought in all of baseball, and, well, that team has spent a lot of money (and the fans have put in a lot of energy and dedication) in that time. Probably about due to break through, right? They’ve got the opportunity for a hot start against a team that seems to lose another important piece every day.

15. Padres (Yu Darvish) at D-backs (Madison Bumgarner)
9:40 p.m. Thursday

This one might be a little higher if Fernando Tatis Jr. were a part of it, but there’s still plenty to watch here, from Darvish trying to get back to his former self (something the Padres very much need) to Bumgarner building on his solid second half of last season (which might mean the D-backs trade him at the Deadline).