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Opening Day 2018: Today’s Matchups

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As I’ve written a hundred times, that there are over 2,000 baseball games every year means that no single one is terribly important. If our coverage here at HardballTalk has been informed by anything over the past nine years, it’s been informed by that fact. We don’t freak out about single game results and we try not to let hype outpace basic reality.

But dang it, Opening Day is exciting. If I had the ability to put some jacked up graphics of robots smashing into each other and could afford to get Jason Isbell to dress up like Hank Jr. and do some parody song called “ARE YOU READY FOR SOME BASEBALL??!!!” I’d do it in a heartbeat. This is our Christmas, friends, and at 7AM, I’m already deep into the baseball eggnog.

As such, allow me to be super excited about today’s matchups and to treat these games like they matter.

The Games (all times EDT; national TV where noted):

Chicago Cubs vs. Miami Marlins, 12:30 PM, Marlins Park (ESPN)
Starters: Jon Lester vs Jose Urena
Analysis: The Marlins are currently a .500 team and, if they win this game, will have sole possession of first place in the NL East. This is likely the last time I’ll be able to say that all year.

Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Detroit Tigers, 1:10 PM, Comerica Park
UPDATE:
The game has been postponed

St. Louis Cardinals at New York Mets, 1:10 PM, Citi Field
Starters: Carlos Martinez vs Noah Syndergaard
Analysis: Wild Card preview? Eh, maybe not — someone on the Mets will come down with boneinitis or skin failure or something — but if the starting pitching is healthy, they could be fun. Syndergaard is fun as it is.

Minnesota Twins vs. Baltimore Orioles, 3:05 PM, Oriole Park at Camden Yards
Starters: Jake Odorizzi vs Dylan Bundy
Analysis: Given the names of my kids’ middle school friends, in about 10-15 years, 75% of all baseball games will be started by guys named “Jake” and “Dylan.”

Houston Astros vs. Texas Rangers, 3:30 PM, Globe Life Park (ESPN)
Starters: Justin Verlander vs Cole Hamels
Analysis: I sort of went out on a limb and picked Verlander to be my Cy Young Award winner this year. I could totally see him pitching far worse, objectively speaking, than he did after coming over in the trade last year but still winning, like, 24 games because of all of the run support he’ll get. Sort of a late career Roger Clemens special, ya know?

New York Yankees vs. Toronto Blue Jays, 3:37 PM, Rogers Centre
Starters: Luis Severino vs J.A. Happ
Analysis: If I worked for a New York paper, and if Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge did anything less than go 3-for-4 with two homers and five driven in today, tomorrow’s column would read “what’s wrong with Judge and Stanton?” I’d do it totally straight, with no hint of sarcasm.

Boston Red Sox vs. Tampa Bay Rays, 4:00 PM, Tropicana Field
Starters: Chris Sale vs Chris Archer
Analysis: Nothing like the smell of the fresh grass, the warm spring breezes and the blue, blue skies of Opening Day. Truly, it is a day of renewal.

Los Angeles Angels vs. Oakland Athletics, 4:05 PM, Oakland Coliseum
Starters: Garrett Richards vs Kendall Graveman
Analysis: In 10-15 years the other 25% of games will be started by dudes named Garrett and Kendall.

Philadelphia Phillies vs. Atlanta Braves, 4:10 PM, Sun Trust Park
Starters: Aaron Nola vs Julio Teheran
Analysis: The Phillies will likely start their rookie sensation, Scott Kingery. The Braves’ rookie sensation, Ronald Acuna, will be working out on a minor league field someplace. There are a lot of reasons for that, but it’ll be more fun to be a Phillies fan than a Braves fan this year, I suspect.

Milwaukee Brewers vs. San Diego Padres, 4:10 PM, Petco Park
Starters: Chase Anderson vs Clayton Richard
Analysis: I’ve been to a lot of games at Petco Park, some day games, some night games. The place is a totally different and far more fun for day games, both because of the atmosphere and because the ball flies way better. I know television and economics won’t allow it anymore, but if I were made Supreme Ruler of Baseball, I’d mandate that the Padres — and heck, maybe all California teams — play all of their home games during the day.

Chicago White Sox vs. Kansas City Royals, 4:15 PM, Kauffman Stadium
Starters: James Shields vs Danny Duffy
Analysis: I wish starting pitchers shook hands on the field before each game because if it happened here it’d be sorta like a time traveler, former Royals ace James Shields, coming to the present to warn current Royals ace Danny Duffy about all of the crap that’s gonna happen to him in the next five years.

San Francisco Giants vs. Los Angeles Dodgers, 7:00 PM, Dodger Stadium (ESPN)
Starters: Ty Blach vs Clayton Kershaw
Analysis: This is gonna be a bit less exciting than it might’ve been if Madison Bumgarner hadn’t broken his hand. Still, it’s hard to beat Giants-Dodgers on Opening Day.

Cleveland Indians vs. Seattle Mariners, 10:00 PM, Safeco Field (ESPN)
Starters: Corey Kluber vs Felix Hernandez
Analysis: Indians fans are the only ones in all of baseball who have to deal with a fan-unfriendly, super late Opening Day game. On a weeknight no less. Be kind to them at work tomorrow morning.

Colorado Rockies vs. Arizona Diamondbacks, 10:10 PM, Chase Field
Starters: Jon Gray vs. Patrick Corbin
Analysis: Wild Card rematch from 2017. There’s a humidor in Phoenix now. I wonder if the balls will fail to fly as far.

Marcus Stroman dealing with blister again

Marcus Stroman
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Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman might be headed to the disabled list soon, manager John Gibbons told reporters following Friday’s rain-shortened loss to the Yankees. The righty lasted just four innings on the mound before calling it a night, and gave up five runs, six hits and two walks in a performance that Gibbons claimed was at least partially affected by recurring blister issues on his right middle finger. Now, it looks like he might be removed from the rotation for some much-needed rest and rehabilitation; if so, it’ll be his second such stint this year.

Stroman, 27, has struggled to return the kind of winning record and sub-4.00 ERA that characterized his previous seasons with the club, mostly due to the combined seven weeks he missed with blisters on his throwing hand and chronic fatigue in his right shoulder. In a recent start against the Rays, things got even more gruesome when his blister appeared to start bleeding in the middle of his outing and MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm notes that the wound has constantly interfered with the right-hander’s pitch selection and delivery. When healthy, Stroman has managed a 4-8 record through 18 starts in 2018 with a career-worst 5.27 ERA, 3.2 BB/9 and 6.8 SO/9 in 100 2/3 innings. This will be the first year since 2015 in which he has not logged at least 200 innings in a single season.

While Stroman may not need an extended stay on the DL before he returns to the mound, it’s not clear what kind of timetable the Blue Jays expect for his recovery. He’s been the second-most valuable starter (behind the now-traded J.A. Happ) in a rotation that currently ranks 17th in the majors with a combined 4.90 ERA and 6.8 fWAR.