In less than a week, the 2017 Major League Baseball season will begin. Starting with a trio of games on Sunday, the slate of Opening Day matchups cross the league features some intriguing contests.
To look at the best of the best, here is our overview of the Top Five Opening Day Matchups of 2017. Considering factors such as the quality of matchup and ballpark experience, the list includes some contests that will be worth watching—whether it’s by heading to the game or tuning in via television, radio, or streaming.
Featuring two playoff teams from 2016, this matchup in Arlington is a fitting start to the season for both clubs. While the Indians are looking for a strong defense of their American League pennant, the Rangers begin the season with hopes of prevailing in what should be a competitive AL West. In addition, the Rangers have already announced pre-game events for the opener, including a ceremony to honor their division title from 2016, and an appearance by 2017 Hall of Fame inductee Ivan Rodriguez, who will catch the ceremonial first pitch from Arlington mayor Jeff Williams.
Interleague play will be on display at Fenway Park, as the Red Sox and Pirates face off on Opening Day. The Red Sox are coming off a season that saw them capture the AL East Title, which they are striving to defend after a busy offseason. The Pirates, meanwhile, are hoping to bounce back from their 78-83 record from a year ago, a disappointing mark for a club that was coming off three straight trips to the postseason. This will mark the first time since 2010 that the Red Sox begin the season at home.
This game offers several layers of intrigue. Both teams enter the season with reasonable chances of competing in the AL West, and will look for a successful opening to the season behind one-time Cy Young Award winners, as Dallas Keuchel and the Astros are slated to host Felix Hernandez and the Mariners. Minute Maid Park is also gearing up for a season that will introduce some of the biggest changes to the ballpark in its history. As part of the renovation to remove Tal’s Hill, the Astros have added a new centerfield area that features several fan amenities, including the newly-named Lexus Field Club.
The rivalry between these two teams has been brewing over the last few seasons, and could take centerstage on Opening Day. In last year’s Wild Card game, the Blue Jays knocked off the Orioles in an extra-inning affair at the Rogers Centre and made it through the ALCS before losing to the Indians. To start 2017, the battle will shift to Baltimore, where both teams will look to gain the upper hand. For the Orioles, this game will also mark a day of significance for their home ballpark, as this game will mark the beginning of season-long celebration of the 25th anniversary of Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
After breaking their 108-season title drought last fall, the Cubs finally enter a season as the defending World Series champions. As they begin their quest to defend their title, the Cubs will travel to St. Louis to face the Cardinals in a game that will introduce a new dynamic to one of baseball’s most storied rivalries. Since both teams have aspirations of competing this year, the intrigue behind that rivalry may only grow. This contest will also be featured on one of MLB’s biggest stages, as it will be the first game of 2017 to be aired on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball.
Falling just short of the top five are a few interesting matchups. Tropicana Field will feature an AL East showdown between the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees. A pair of intriguing NL East matchups are on the docket, as the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves will face off at Citi Field, while the Miami Marlins and Washington Nationals will meet at Nationals Park. Dodger Stadium is a fitting venue for Opening Day baseball, and for this year the Los Angeles Dodgers will welcome the San Diego Padres. These games, with the exception of Sunday’s contest at Tropicana Field, are scheduled for Monday.
First pitch times reflect local time zones.