MLB Opening Day 2021: Dodgers’ repeat chances, best pitching matchups among five things to know

Major League Baseball’s new regular season begins Thursday, April 1st. The opening day begins shortly after 1 p.m. (CET). The Toronto Blue Jays face the New York Yankees in an American League East battle. Each team is expected to play on Thursday, and the action will likely continue after 1am on the east coast thanks to a late-night socket that includes competitions between the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Angels, and between the Houston Astros and Oakland Contains athletics.

It was a long, and at times eventful, off-season. That is why we have decided here at CBS Sports that everyone can take advantage of a refresher course on what is happening over the winter. Our method of delivering one is to highlight five things to watch out for on Opening Day, from the return of the crowd to the best pitching matchups. But first let’s take a look at the list of games:

Opening day schedule
(All times US / East)

  • Toronto Blue Jays at the New York Yankees, 1:05 p.m., fuboTV (national)
  • Cleveland at Detroit Tigers, 1:10 p.m.
  • Minnesota Twins at Milwaukee Brewers, 2:10 p.m.
  • Baltimore Orioles at Boston Red Sox, 2:10 p.m., fuboTV (regional)
  • Pittsburgh Pirates at Chicago Cubs, 2:20 p.m., fuboTV (regional)
  • Atlanta Braves in Philadelphia Phillies, 3:05 p.m., fuboTV (local)
  • Arizona Diamondbacks in San Diego Padres at 4:10 p.m.
  • Texas Rangers at the Kansas City Royals, 4:10 p.m.
  • Los Angeles Dodgers in the Colorado Rockies, 4:10 p.m., fuboTV (national)
  • St. Louis Cardinals at the Cincinnati Reds, 4:10 p.m.
  • Tampa Bay Rays in Miami Marlins, 4:10 p.m.
  • New York Mets at Washington Nationals, 7:09 p.m., fuboTV (national)
  • Chicago White Sox at Los Angeles Angels, 10:05 p.m., fuboTV (national)
  • Houston Astros at Oakland Athletics, 10:07 p.m., fuboTV (regional)
  • San Francisco Giants at Seattle Mariners, 10:10 p.m., fuboTV (regional)

Below are all five items listed in no particular order.

1. Get closer to normal

Let’s face it, last season’s opening day didn’t feel like opening day. Maybe not this year either, but it’s a step in that direction.

Each team is expected to play a regular season, i.e. 162 games. They’ll play these in front of an audience as fans get back in the stands for the first time in the regular season since 2019, mostly with social distancing capabilities. (The Texas Rangers, unwisely planning on having a full house for their home opener, are on their way.) Plus, many of the rule changes from last year, like the universal DH and extended postseason, have been scratched, with the exception of a last-minute -Agreement between MLB and the Players Association.

It won’t be quite the same as it was before COVID, but it will be more like these days than it was last summer – and that should be positive.

2. Lindor, Arenado lead old faces in new places

One of the nice things about opening day is to see players who changed teams for the first time in the off-season in their new kit. (We’re not counting the spring training threads that many teams wear during the show season.)

George Springer, the best free agent of the winter, could be prevented from making his debut due to an oblique injury. That’s okay, there are plenty of other stars in new places including Francisco Lindor (New York Mets), Nolan Arenado (St. Louis Cardinals), and both Yu Darvish and Blake Snell (San Diego Padres). Not to mention reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer (Los Angeles Dodgers), or countless others who will be relying on Google Maps to get them to their new jobs.

3. deGrom-Scherzer tops pitching matchups

Perhaps your team is playing late, or you are one of those fans who just want to see the best pitching matchup available at any given time of the day. Which games should you watch?

Our Mike Axisa recently rated all 15 pitching matchups of the day and thus crowned the pair Jacob deGrom-Max Scherzer (7:09 pm ET start) as the best in their class. As for the best possible duels at other times, Gerrit Cole versus Hyun-jin Ryu starts at 1:05 pm ET; Jack Flaherty and Luis Castillo at 4:10 p.m. ET; and Lucas Giolito and Dylan Bundy at 10:05 p.m. ET.

You can see the rest of Axisa’s ranking by clicking here.

4. Dodgers remain World Series favorites

The last time we saw a meaningful MLB game it ended up with the Los Angeles Dodgers taking the league title. After a winter of signing Trevor Bauer, reigning National League Cy Young Award winner, one might wonder: are the Dodgers ready to become the first repeat champions since the 1998-2000 New York Yankees?

The Dodgers appear to be the team most likely to win the World Series in 2021. SportsLine predicts them 111 wins and gives them a 99.9 percent chance of reaching the postseason. The upgraded San Diego Padres, apparently the Dodgers’ toughest threat in the west, are expected to win 89 games by comparison.

This is music to Dodger’s fans ears, but what about everyone else? Take solace in the words of our Dayn Perry who explained why you should be betting on the field.

5. Vaughn, India among the newbies to watch

The pandemic season has hit everything baseball or otherwise, including the eligibility standards for the Rookie of the Year award. As a result, people like Ke’Bryan Hayes, Ian Anderson and Sixto Sanchez, who each played significant roles in their respective teams over the past season, can be re-considered.

If you’re bored of these players and want to get a glimpse of the next wave of teenagers, opening day should still have something for you.

A few former top 5 picks are likely to make their debut during their teams’ inaugural competitions. Andrew Vaughn may not start the game for the Chicago White Sox in left field, but it is easy to imagine he could step in for a designated hitter or maybe get a high leverage crush. Jonathan India will likely nod for the Cincinnati Reds on the second base.

Indeed, India could be the first player to debut in the 2021 season. It’s safe to say that he won’t be the last.

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