There are just two Major League Baseball spring training days left, which means Opening Day is just around the corner.
The St. Louis Cardinal and the Chicago Cubs will kick-off the start of the 2015 MLB season on April 5. The two rivals will play a three-game series at the recently renovated — and safe — Wrigley Field. Cubs Chairman Tom Rickets told Sports Illustrated that the $375 million renovation to the stadium will take an extra year to finish.
St. Louis (90-72 in 2014) has made the postseason in each of the past three seasons and are favorites to claim the Central Division for a third consecutive year by many prognosticators including Grantland.com. The Cubs (73-89), who are projected to finish third in the Central by Brian Svrluga of the Washington Post, have not reached the postseason since 2008.
While the Cardinals-Cubs game is the only Sunday contest, there are 14 games on April 6.
The following will look at the pitching matchups of all Opening Day games.
1. St. Louis at Chicago 8 p.m. (ET) on ESPN2 and Watch ESPN
RHP Adam Wainwright (20-9 in 2014) is expected to face LHP Jon Lester on the mound. Wainwright ranked in the top-five in the National League in several categories, including wins, innings pitched, ERA, WHIP and complete games.
Wainwright went 3-1 against the Cubs last year.
Lester, who missed a spring start earlier this month due to a fatigued arm, told Jesse Rogers of ESPNChicago that he is ready to go on Opening Day.
Lester signed a six-year, $155 million dollar contract with the Cubs this offseason after spending the last part of the two season with Oakland. Lester went 14-11 last year with a 2.46 ERA in 219.2 innings. He is expected to be on a 100-pitch count against the Cardinals.
This is Lester’s first season in the NL.
1. Toronto at New York Yankees, 1 p.m. (ET), ESPN/WatchESPN
The New York Yankees open the season at home against AL East rival Toronto Blue Jays. The Yankees (84-78) enter the season with a bunch of questions while the Blue Jays (83-79) have a talented lineup but there are questions about their bullpen. New York is projected to finish fourth by Svrluga and fifth in the AL East by Grantland.com. Toronto is projected to finish second in the division by Grantland and third by the Washington Post.
Toronto will send 24-year old RHP Drew Hutchison (11-13) against 26-year old Masahiro Tanaka (13-5). Hutchison ranked eighth in the AL in strikeouts but registered a 4.48 ERA last year. Tanaka made just 20 starts last year but appears healthy according to Svrluga. Tanaka finished second in the AL with three complete games.
This will be both pitchers first Opening Day assignment.
2. Minnesota at Detroit, 1:08 p.m.
Paul Molitor begins his first season as manager of the Minnesota Twins (70-92) while the Detroit Tigers (90-72) have designs on capturing their fifth straight AL Central Division crown. The Tigers lost two of their starting pitchers in free agency and there are questions surrounding RHP Justin Verlander as well as their bullpen. The Twins are in full-blown rebuilding mold.
RHP Phil Hughes (16-10) will make the Opening Day start against LHP David Price. Hughes is coming off his best season of career and ranked in the top-10 in several pitching categories. The 29-year-old Price (15-12) is the first Tigers Opening Day starter not named Verlander since 2007. Price led the AL in innings pitched and strikeouts.
3. Colorado at Milwaukee, 2:10 p.m.
Colorado (66-96) will open the season at Milwaukee (82-80). The Rockies, who are expected to score a lot runs this year, are not expected to be much better than last year. The Brewers didn’t make any major offseason moves, therefore they may fall back a little in the NL Central.
4. Boston at Philadelphia, 3:05 p.m.
The first interleague game in 2015 will feature the Boston Red Sox against the Philadelphia Phillies. The Red Sox (71-91) are expected to bounce back this year and challenge for supremacy in the AL East while the Phillies (73-89) could be in for another long year.
Thirty-year-old RHP Clay Buchholz (8-11) makes the Opening Day start for Boston while Philadelphia will go with LHP Cole Hamels ( 9-9).
5. Baltimore at Tampa Bay, 3:10 p.m.
The Baltimore Orioles (96-66), coming off their first AL East division crown since 1997, will open the season at Tampa Bay (77-85). The Orioles are expected to contend for the division title once again while the Rays are projected to finish near the basement.
Baltimore sends 26-year-old RHP Chris Tillman (13-6) while Tampa Bay counters with 26-year-old Chris Archer (10-9).
6. New York Mets at Washington, 4 p.m., ESPN/WatchESPN
The New York Mets (79-83) are expected to finish in the middle of the pack in the NL East while the Washington Nationals (96-66) are expected to run away with the division title once again. The Nationals, who will send newly acquired Max Scherzer to the mound, have won the East division crown two of the past three years.
Scherzer (18-5) is in his first season with the Nationals. He was the 2013 AL Cy Young Award winner with Detroit. The Mets will send veteran Bartolo Colon (15-13).
7. Chicago White Sox at Kansas City, 4:10 p.m.
Chicago (73-89) will send RHP Jeff Samardzija (7-13) against 23-year-old RHP Yordano Ventura (14-10). Ventura tossed seven innings of shutout baseball in Game six of the World Series against San Francisco for the Royals (89-73) last year.
Kansas City lost the 2014 World Series 4-3. It was the Royals first postseason appearance since becoming World Champions in 1985.
8. Los Angeles Angels at Seattle, 4:10 p.m.
The Los Angeles Angels (98-64) are coming off their first AL West crown since 2009 but could this year be the year the Seattle Mariners (87-75) once again reign supreme in the West?
The Mariners are projected to win their first division title since 2001 while the Angels are predicted to be finish as division runners-up.
Los Angeles will send 32-year-old Jered Weaver (18-9) to the mound to square off against 28-year-old lefty Felix Hernandez (15-6). Hernandez is coming off a fine season where he led the AL in ERA and WHIP. Weaver led the AL in wins and was No. 9 in innings pitched.
9. Pittsburgh at Cincinnati, 4:10 p.m.
The Pittsburgh Pirates (88-74) have made the playoffs the last two years and are projected to be in the hunt for the wild card once again. Cincinnati (76-86) is expected to finish in the bottom half of the Central division. The Reds biggest problem is their starting pitching.
The Pirates will send LHP Francisco Liriano (7-10) to the mound to face RHP Johnny Cueto (20-9). Cueto ranked in the top-four of the NL in several categories in several categories, including No. 1 in innings pitched and strikeouts.
10. San Diego at Los Angeles Dodgers, 4:10 p.m.
This opening day matchup could feature the top two teams in the NL West. The Dodgers (94-68) have won the West the last two seasons and is predicted by Grantland.com to win the division again. The Padres (77-85) have finished in the top two of the division only once since winning the division title in 2006.
Thirty-three-year-old right-hander James Shields (14-8) takes the ball for the Padres while the Dodgers hand the ball to lefty Clayton Kershaw (21-3). Kersaw led the NL in wins, ERA, WHIP, winning percentage and complete games.
11. Atlanta at Miami, 4:10 p.m.
There was quite a battle for second in the NL East last year as Atlanta (79-83), New York, and Miami (77-85) were within two games of each other. The Marlins, who will go with 24-year-old Henderson Alveraz on Opening Day, are projected to finish second this year while the Braves will give the ball to 24-year-old Julio Teheran.
Alveraz (12-7) ranked No. 6 in the ERA and complete games las year while Teheran (14-13) ranked No. 3 in the NL in innings pitched and complete games as well as No. 6 in WHIP.
12. Cleveland at Houston, 7 p.m. ESPN/WatchESPN
The Cleveland Indians (85-77) battled the Detroit Tigers hard for the AL Central Division title last year before falling off the pace late in the season. The Indians are expected to contend for the division crown again this year and will start their journey on the road against the Houston Astros (70-92).
The Indians will send 28-year-old right-hander Corey Kluber (18-9), who had a career year in 2014, to the mound to battle 27-year-old lefty Dallas Keuchel (12-9). Kluber led the AL in wins and ranked No. 2 in strikeouts and complete games. Kluber also finished No. 3 in ERA and innings pitched. Keuchel led the AL with five complete games and ranked No. 7 in ERA.
13. San Francisco at Arizona, 10 p.m. ESPN2/WatchESPN
The San Francisco Giants (88-74) will start their World Series defense at Arizona (64-98). The Giants are expected to take a step or two back while the Padres could challenge the Dodgers for the top spot in the West.
Twenty-five-year-old Madison Bumgarner (18-10) was fabulous in the postseason and is rewarded with his first Opening Day start against right-hander Josh Collmenter (11-9). Bumgarner ranked in the top-10 in several categories last year.
14. Texas at Oakland, 10:05 p.m.
The Texas Rangers (67-95) will battle the Oakland Athletics (88-74) in the final game of Opening Day. The Rangers will give the ball to Yovani Gallardo (8-11), while Sonny Gray (14-10) gets the call from the Athletics.
[photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images]