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MLB Opening Night Preview

MLB Opening Night Preview

Opening Night is tomorrow! The manufactured matchups pit the defending World Series champs, the Nationals, against this year’s Vegas odds favorite, the Yankees. On the left coast, the Dodgers play host to the Giants, in a classic rivalry game. Both contests are exclusively on ESPN, with the Yanks-Nats game at 7 p.m. EST, and the Orange and Blue at 10 p.m. EST.

Yankees vs. Nationals

Managers: Aaron Boone and Dave Martinez

Starting Pitchers: Gerrit Cole (20-5, 2.50, 13.8 K/9) and Max Scherzer (11-7, 2.92, 12.7 K/9)

Projected Lineups with 2019 stats:

SS Trea Turner, .298/.353/.497, 113 OPS+2B DJ Lemahieu, .327/.375/.518, 136 OPS+
RF Adam Eaton, .279/.365/.428, 101 OPS+RF Aaron Judge, .272/.381/.540, 143 OPS+
LF Juan Soto, .282/.401/.548, 138 OPS+SS Gleyber Torres, .278/.337/.535, 128 OPS+
DH Howie Kendrick, .344/.395/.572, 142 OPS+DH Giancarlo Stanton, .288/.403/.497, 138 OPS+
1B Eric Thames, .247/.346/.505, 117 OPS+CF Aaron Hicks, .235/.325/.443, 103 OPS+
2B Starlin Castro, .270/.300/.436, 94 OPS+C Gary Sanchez, .232/.316/.525, 119 OPS+
3B Asdrubal Cabrera, .260/.342/.441, 97 OPS+1B Luke Voit, .263/.378/.464, 124 OPS+
C Yan Gomes, .223/.316/.389, 78 OPS+LF Brett Gardner, .251/.325/.503, 117 OPS+
CF Victor Robles, .255/.326/.419, 88 OPS+3B Gio Urshela, .314/.355/.534, 133 OPS+
MLB Opening Night Preview
Soto has proven he can carry a lineup all by himself (Image Courtesy of Getty Images)

The pitching matchup showcases two of the best in the business. Gerrit Cole makes his Yankee debut against a Nats lineup that looks weaker without the presence of Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman. But Cole meets again with Juan Soto, who took him deep twice in the Fall Classic.

Max Scherzer has to go up against the toughest lineup in the world, with everyone healthy for the first time in a couple of years. According to the Stanton, the Yanks are “unmatched in the league if we could all stay out there.’’ Advantage Yankees here, if they can remain healthy for the next 24 hours.

MLB Opening Night Preview
The Yankee lineup has no holes with Stanton healthy (Image Courtesy of Getty Images)

If a close game is handed over to the bullpens, the Yankees also have a slight advantage. Their back end core of ZacK Britton, Chad Green and Adam Ottavino is intact, although Aroldis Chapman is currently working through COVID-19. The Nationals added Will Harris to complement Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson, plus Tanner Rainey showed flashes of brilliance in 2019.

New York boasts a stronger team, but the Nats have a home-field advantage with the force of a thousand loudspeakers.

Games like these are chances to make a statement. Whether it’s “Tremble Before Us” for the Yankees, or “Look What Happened When You Counted Us Out Last Time” for Washington, Opening Night is the perfect stage.

Giants vs. Dodgers

Managers: Gabe Kapler and Dave Roberts

Starting Pitchers: Johnny Cueto (1-2, 5.06, 7.3 K/9) and Clayton Kershaw (16-5, 3.03, 9.5 K/9)

Projected Lineups with 2019 stats:

LF Mike Yastrzemski, .272/.334/.518, 123 OPS+RF Mookie Betts, .295/.391/.524, 135 OPS+
RF Austin Slater, .238/.333/.417, 99 OPS+1B Max Muncy, .251/.374/.515, 133 OPS+
2B Wilmer Flores, .317/.361/.487, 118 OPS+3B Justin Turner, .290/.372/.509, 131 OPS+
DH Hunter Pence, .297/.358/.552, 126 OPS+CF Cody Bellinger, .305/.406/.629, 169 OPS+
1B Darin Ruf, .292/.396/.515 (KBO stats)SS Corey Seager, .272/.335/.483, 113 OPS+
3B Pablo Sandoval, .268/.313/.507, 114 OPS+LF A.J. Pollock, .266/.327/.468, 108 OPS+
CF Mauricio Dubon, .279/.312/.442, 99 OPS+DH Joc Pederson, .249/.339/.538, 127 OPS+
SS Brandon Crawford, .228/.304/.350, 75 OPS+2B Chris Taylor, .262/.333/.462, 108 OPS+
C Chadwick Tromp, .280/.397/.568 (MiLB stats)C Will Smith, .253/.337/.571, 134 OPS+
MLB Opening Night Preview
Cueto still has some shimmy left in the tank (Image Courtesy of SF Examiner)

Gabe Kapler begins his Giants tenure with Johnny Cueto on the bump. The 34-year-old righty is coming off Tommy John surgery, but has looked sharp in “Spring Training 2.0.” He faces a formidable Dodgers lineup that added Mookie Betts (for the next 13 years) and is chock full of Silver Slugger candidates.

On the other side, Clayton Kershaw toes the rubber for his ninth Opening Day start. His track record against the Giants – a 1.74 ERA in 342.1 innings – is astounding. He goes against a Giants lineup that is mostly comprised of aging stars and long-time minor leaguers (no offense to Yastrzemski, Slater, and Tromp). With Buster Posey, Evan Longoria and Brandon Belt not in the lineup, San Francisco may struggle to produce runs early this season. Clearly advantage Dodgers.

MLB Opening Night Preview
Mookie will be in Dodger Blue until 2032 (Image Courtesy of ESPN)

In the ‘pen, the Boys in Blue have a variety of good situational relievers. Dave Roberts will deploy Adam Kolarek, Pedro Baez and Joe Kelly at any time. And if Blake Treinen and Kenley Jansen return to form, the back end could be dominant. For the Giants, the departures of Will Smith and Mark Melancon leave big holes. But submariner Tyler Rogers is making strides, plus Trevor Gott and Tony Watson should be dependable stoppers. Still, the Dodgers have an advantage.

Giants vs. Dodgers rivalry games usually have a flair for the dramatic, especially on Opening Day. In 2013, Clayton Kershaw homered to break a scoreless tie in the 8th, and the Dodgers went on to win 4-0. Or in 2018, Joe Panik’s solo homer off Kershaw in the 5th was the only run of the game… and the next night his solo homer off Jansen in the 9th was the only run of the game. Who else will carve their name into Giants/Dodgers lore?

Remember to tune in to ESPN at 7 p.m. EST on Thursday for an exciting night of Major League Baseball.

Featured Image Courtesy of Getty Images.

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