We’re less than a month out from MLB’s Opening Weekend and it feels so good. Naturally, it’s time to start planning your Opening Weekend viewing schedule.
Now once you abandon all your personal responsibilities and surround yourself with 3-4 screens, you’ll need some insight on the must-watch matchups. 162 games makes for a long, long season, and obviously what happens the first weekend has seemingly little impact on the playoff picture. However, it must be noted that the intensity and excitement brought during the first few sets of games are definitely a step up from what you get in the dog days of August.
Here are my picks for the best Opening Weekend match-ups for 2019.
Braves @ Phillies
This opening weekend match-up could very well be an extremely early preview of the battle of the NL East (although that’s not to say that the Nats’ rotation won’t also spearhead them to a potential division crown).
The main attraction here on paper is getting to see the new-look Phillies. $330M dollar man Bryce Harper is the main attraction, but don’t forget that this offseason the Phillies also acquired Jean Segura, Andrew McCutchen, and J.T. Realmuto. They’re as viable a World Series contender as any team in baseball, at least offensively.
The Braves arrived a year early, surprising most to win the NL East. With how much the Phillies have loaded up and with a potential threat from the Nats (Harper loss aside, they still look good), don’t expect the Braves to waltz in this season as division favorites.
Watching these two battle early on will be as compelling as any series during opening weekend. Lots of new pieces (looking forward to some potential early fireworks from a hopefully resurgent Josh Donaldson for Atlanta) and a Cy Young-caliber pitching match-up on the table if Aaron Nola & Mike Foltynewicz are dueling on Opening Day.
Look for some of the young Braves (Acuna, Albies, Swanson) to try to start off the season hot, and expect some of the Phils’ new additions to make a big impact early, especially in their first go-round in front of the home fans. Expect lots of standing ovations, at the very least, from fans desperate to see a return to the postseason.
Indians @ Twins
I’ll be selfish here and include my beloved (and beleaguered) Twins in this slate of must-watch opening games, but not without reason. Barring miraculous seasons by the Royals, White Sox (not likely considering they whiffed on Manny Machado), or the Tigers, this series pits the two primary contenders for the AL Central.
March 28th could be the start of a season-long chase for a playoff berth by these two clubs. The Twins had an incredibly active offseason, bolstering their offense and making a few small moves offensively. Combining that with players that they’re hoping will bounce-back after injury riddled 2018 seasons (Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, and a returning from TJ Michael Pineda), this could be an exciting team, and one well worth a watch from the first pitch of their season. The anticipation is high with the possibility of them fielding as many as five players who weren’t on their active roster last September.
The Indians might not have improved much over the offseason (jettisoned Yan Gomes & brought back old friend Carlos Santana), but the core of their last few AL Central championship teams is still there. I’ve labeled this first Indians series as a must-watch, but really all Indians series look to be can’t-miss too. They trot out potentially the best rotation top-3 (although the Nats might argue with that) in baseball with Kluber, Bauer, & Carrasco. Mike Clevinger is no slouch either, so no matter which way the dice roll with how Cleveland’s starters line up, you’re seeing elite arms each day.
The Twins-Indians series is already worth the MLB TV viewing, and that’s only compounded if Francisco Lindor somehow comes back from his calf injury by Opening Day.
Astros @ Rays
Forgive me, but I’m actually recommending you watch multiple baseball games at The Trop. The stadium itself might be an eyesore, but there will be too much talent and intrigue in that dome to ignore.
I’m considering every Blake Snell start “must-watch TV” this year, so with Opening Day intensity going against the 2017 WS champs, it’s obviously a glued to the TV situation. It hasn’t been announced that he’s starting Opening Day, but come-on, there’s no way the Rays use an opener on Opening Day, right?
After an offseason to refine the strategy, seeing what the Rays do in terms of their opener (whenever they do use one) will be interesting to take note of. It’ll be fun to turn on a game knowing you’ll get Ryne Stanek “flame-throwing” against Bregman & Correa.
Speaking of Bregman & Correa, the case for watching the ‘Stros against the Rays really begins with them and the rest of the top of their order. There’s potentially no more exciting first four hitters in baseball than Springer, Bregman, Altuve, and Correa. Hence, why seeing an opener against the Astros might be an even more intriguing wrinkle than usual. Those four guys can do it all, getting 4-5 ABs a game, making it well worth your viewing pleasure. If you’re not completely sold yet, the Rays have some young talent to keep an eye on. Both Willy Adames & Austin Meadows are looking to crack their Opening Day lineup, and Tyler Glasnow is a post-hype prospect I’m picking to really click this year.
Regardless of which MLB TV stream you choose for Opening Weekend, let’s just enjoy that baseball is back!
By Kyle Bandujo