Chicago Cubs pitcher Jon Lester pitches in the 2016 World Series.

MLB 2017: New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs Open Season Sunday

The New York Yankees and the Chicago Cubs are just two of six teams who will open the 2017 MLB season on Sunday, with the World Series champion Cubs playing in primetime.

The 2017 MLB season will begin at 1 p.m. ET when the Yankees play against the Tampa Bay Rays. Next will be the San Francisco Giants at the Arizona Diamondbacks at 4 p.m. ET, and the nightcap at 8:30 p.m. ET will be the World Series champion Cubs at the St. Louis Cardinals in a classic rivalry.

Here is a closer look at the pitching matchups for all three MLB games.

New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays (ESPN) — This will be an excellent way for the MLB year to open up as the Yankees are on the road for their first series of the season. This matchup features two good pitchers with the Yankees opening their latest MLB campaign with Masahiro Tanaka on the mound, while the Rays will have Chris Archer as their Opening Day starter.

Last season, Archer was 9-19 in 33 starts, finishing with a 4.02 ERA. Archer also collected 233 strikeouts with a WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of 1.8 and WHIP of 1.24.

As for Tanaka, he made 31 starts last year, finishing 14-4 with a 3.07 ERA, along with 165 strikeouts, a 1.08 WHIP and WAR of 5.4.

San Francisco Giants at Arizona Diamondbacks (ESPN 2) — This pitching matchup is just as intriguing as the one happening with the Yankees at Rays when the Giants send Madison Bumgarner to the mound during their MLB opener to face Diamondbacks ace Zack Greinke.

Bumgarner is one of the most dominant pitchers in MLB today, finishing 15-9 last year in 34 starts, including an ERA of just 2.74 with a WHIP of 1.02 and a WAR of 5.0.

Greinke didn’t live up to expectations after signing with the Diamondbacks last offseason, mostly due to injuries. Greinke made 26 starts in ’16, and in those starts, he had a 4.37 ERA with 134 strikeouts, a 1.27 WHIP and a 2.3 WAR.

Chicago Cubs at St. Louis Cardinals (ESPN)Sunday Night Baseball will be geared toward the World Series champion Chicago Cubs, and deservedly so, as the Cubs are the best team entering the ’17 MLB season. Though they mostly stayed pat with their roster, it was a great roster last year. The Cubs dominated the NL Central in ’16, eventually winning the championship in an epic seven-game World Series against the Cleveland Indians.

The Cubs are using Jon Lester as their Opening Day pitcher in front of a national primetime audience. Lester is coming off a ’16 MLB season where he had a 2.44 ERA. Lester not only had the excellent ERA, but he had nearly 200 strikeouts (197). The Cubs starter also earned a WAR of 5.3 and a WHIP of 1.02, finishing with a 19-5 record in ’16.

Even in the MLB Postseason in six games (five starts), Lester totaled 30 strikeouts, while having an ERA of 2.02.

The Cardinals will send Carlos Martinez to fend off the Cubs on Sunday night, with Martinez beginning his fifth MLB season. In facing the reigning World Series champion Cubs, he enters following a solid ’16 MLB campaign. Last year, Martinez finished with a 3.04 ERA and 174 strikeouts. He also had a 5.4 WAR and 1.22 WHIP.

With teams like the Cubs, Yankees, Giants and Cardinals all playing on Sunday, there is a lot of history in those names. Add in the Diamondbacks, and all but the Rays have at least one World Series championship. With the Cubs being the defending champs for the first time in over 100 years, they are the favorites to have the best MLB season of all yet again.

Don’t count out others who begin their MLB play on Monday, but for Sunday, the day, or shall we say night, will be focused on the Cubs as they begin their MLB World Series championship defense.

[Featured Image by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images]

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