Opening Day is closing in, and we can't wait. And now that all the Opening Day starters are clear -- at leat until the next strained forearm or sore groin -- we decided to dope out all the matchups for the 15 season openers, trying to differentiate the must-watches from the take-a-breathers.
The schedule calls for one opener Sunday, 13 more on Monday and the last one on Tuesday (fans in San Francisco and Milwaukee will just have to wait a little longer.)
By our count, there are two five-star match-ups and four four-star games. A couple matchups from the NL East and AL West bring up the rear ...
(worth setting the DVR)
o. Rays (James Shields) at Red Sox (Josh Beckett), Monday -- ALCS rematch, two legit aces, Fenway Park in the daytime. What more can we ask for?
o. Cubs (Carlos Zambrano) at Astros (Roy Oswalt), Monday -- Two great pitchers, and we get to see Big Z hit off Oswalt (1-for-12, seven whiffs, by the way).
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(watch if you can)
o. Braves (Derek Lowe) at Phillies (Brett Myers), Sunday -- Not a bad matchup, but it gets the high rating mostly because it's the first real game of the year (sorry WBC).
o. Royals (Gil Meche) at White Sox (Mark Buehrle), Monday -- Meche is 7-3 in his career against the White Sox; Buehrle is 19-8 against the Royals.
o. Yankees (CC Sabathia) at Orioles (Jeremy Guthrie), Monday -- Compelling mostly to see how Sabathia performs in his first Yankees start.
o. Tigers (Justin Verlander) at Blue Jays (Roy Halladay), Monday -- Halladay is always worth watching, and this game could finish in under 2 1/2 hours.
o. Mets (Johan Santana) at Reds (Aaron Harang), Monday -- In his only career start at Great American Ballpark, last July, Santana allowed five runs in four innings.
o. Rockies (Aaron Cook) at D-Backs (Brandon Webb), Monday -- Only matchup of pitchers who won 16 or more last year.
o. Dodgers (Hiroki Kuroda) at Padres (Jake Peavy), Monday -- San Diego will be favored in this game and about 12 others this year -- every Peavy start until he's traded.
o. Mariners (Felix Hernandez) at Twins (Scott Baker), Monday -- Seattle's Jose Lopez is 9-for-18 in his career against Baker; Minnesota's Michael Cuddyer is 0-for-12 against Hernandez.
(changing the channel is allowed)
o. Indians (Cliff Lee) at Rangers (Kevin Millwood), Monday -- Four straight Opening Day starts for Millwood, a team record. Any other questions about that franchise?
o. Pirates (Paul Maholm) at Cardinals (Adam Wainwright), Monday -- Here are the Pittsburgh Opening Day starters this millennium, going backward: Ian Snell, Zach Duke, Oliver Perez (2), Kip Wells, Kris Benson, Ron Villone, Todd Ritchie.
o. Brewers (Jeff Suppan) at Giants (Tim Lincecum), Tuesday -- Where have you gone, CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets?
(just another game)
o. Athletics (Dallas Braden) at Angels (Joe Saunders), Monday -- Was supposed to be Justin Duchscherer vs. John Lackey, but injuries interfered.
o. Nationals (John Lannan) at Marlins (Ricky Nolasco), Monday -- 38 combined career wins for the two pitches, 27 of those from Nolasco.