At long last, the big leagues are back. Nearly four months from what was supposed to be the original Opening Day, a season on the diamond will finally play out. In a much, much different atmosphere, however, that will involve no fans in the stands. There’s two games scheduled to kick off the proceedings, but is it worth betting either of them? Let’s take a look.
First pitch: 7:08 p.m. ET
Probable pitchers: Gerrit Cole (0-0, -.-- ERA) vs. Max Scherzer (0-0, -.-- ERA)
Could Major League Baseball have scripted a better matchup to return first out of the four major American professional sports? Probably not. That’s why they drew it up just like this.
After all, we have one of the most storied franchises there is matched up with the reigning world champions, fresh off one of the more improbable title runs in recent memory. Along with that, arguably the best pitcher in each league is slated to toe the rubber — and in a rematch from their 2019 World Series Game 1 encounter.
Cole enjoyed a memorable showing last year that many believe should have ended with American League Cy Young honors. Now, he makes his long-awaited debut for a Yankee organization that is starving for a championship (or even a pennant) after signing the richest contract ever signed by a pitcher. Lofty expectations, indeed.
For the champs, Scherzer gets the ball for his latest opening day assignment. He, too, just narrowly missed out on Cy Young hardware but obviously, that doesn’t change the fact the veteran righty is coming off another sensational campaign. In fact, Scherzer registered his fifth-straight season with a sub-3.00 ERA, not to mention provided heroics throughout the club’s unstoppable surge to a title.
At the same time, tonight’s outing doesn’t just represent your typical opening day start. This will be viewed in the long run as a monumental moment in history, being the first game back from a never-before-seen global pandemic, and thus, jitters could be understandable — even for two battle-tested vets.
That and, oh, these are a pair of good lineups that will be on display from D.C. The Yankees smashed the second-most homers by any team in major league history a year ago and are bringing all that lumber back for this next rodeo. In addition, though the Nats no longer feature the services of Anthony Rendon, they also still boast a formidable lineup, anchored by rising star Juan Soto.
The magnitude of this game, and the implementation of the brand new universal designated hitter, can just bring about so many variables. As a result, I don’t even have a lean on how to bet it.
BET: NO PLAY OR LEAN
First pitch: 10:08 p.m. ET
Probable pitchers: Johnny Cueto (0-0, -.-- ERA) vs. Clayton Kershaw (0-0, -.-- ERA)
All the way back in late October, Kershaw made the last two pitches of his 2019 campaign. They would prove to be fateful, resulting in back-to-back homers for the Washington Nationals that yielded a late-inning lead in the deciding Game 5 of the National League Division Series.
Of course, the Dodgers ultimately went on to lose that game in extra innings, getting ousted from the playoffs at home in gut-wrenching fashion. Undoubtedly, this has been weighing on the mind of Kershaw.
Well, the former NL MVP gets perhaps the best possible opportunity to bounce back from that out of the gate and exhibit he’s still the Kershaw of old. Not only do the Giants sport one of the weakest lineups in all of baseball (and one that is missing key veterans Buster Posey, Evan Longoria and Brandon Belt), this is also traditionally a foe Kershaw has owned.
Throughout his brilliant 12-year career, the left-hander has amassed microscopic 1.74 ERA and 0.87 WHIP opposite San Francisco in 49 lifetime meetings (47 starts). The only experienced player that contributes to this Giants batting order right now, Brandon Crawford, is 6-for-48 (.125) in his career off Kershaw.
Even so, I’m still slightly leaning toward the over. Kershaw is still good but not elite like he was for a long time. The inclusion of the universal DH could also figure into things for the multiple-time Cy Young winner. It certainly should for the opposing hurler.
In the theme of this opening day tilt, another celebrated starting pitcher is set to go, looking to prove he isn’t fully past his prime. Cueto’s battled injury in recent years, being limited to just 13 starts combined the last two seasons.
When he returned from Tommy John surgery a year ago, the right-hander known as Johnny Beisbol didn’t look quite right, etching a 5.06 ERA, albeit in four starts. However, the last of those assignments involved a date with the Dodgers, who crafted a three-homer onslaught that saw Cueto pulled after only two innings. This is still a power-laden lineup, too.
BET: LEAN OVER (No play)
MLB Opening Day Betting Odds
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Yankees -1.5 @ +128
Nationals +1.5 @ -142
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Dodgers -1.5 @ -137
Giants +1.5 @ +132