Finally. Opening Day. Better yet, two Opening Days. We have three games on Sunday and 12 on Monday — it will be glorious.

Whether you root for a team with big hopes for this season or one that is years away from contention, there’s just something about that first game of the new year.

To celebrate the start of a new baseball season, here’s one thing to watch for in each contest — along with a can’t-miss prediction for every Opening Day game on this year’s schedule:


New York Yankees (Tanaka) at Tampa Bay Rays (Archer), 1 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Joe Girardi has indicated that catcher Gary Sanchez will bat second, an interesting and unconventional move. I like the idea — stats analysts actually suggest batting your best hitter second for the most optimal lineup — but it’s certainly rare for a catcher to hit in that spot. Girardi isn’t really doing it for that reason, but rather to get an alternating lefty-righty order with Brett Gardner, Sanchez, Greg Bird and Matt Holliday. We’ll see if it lasts; the last catcher to hit second on a regular basis was Jason Kendall in 2010.

Prediction: Rays 3, Yankees 2. Archer fans 11 in seven innings as he returns to 2015 form.

San Francisco Giants (Bumgarner) at Arizona Diamondbacks (Greinke), 4 p.m. ET (ESPN2)

Coming off a disappointing first season of a six-year, $206.5 million deal, Zack Greinke’s fastball velocity in spring training has been about 2 mph slower than his radar readings of 2016. New GM Mike Hazen says he isn’t concerned, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be concerned.

To be fair, Greinke is a guy who relies more on movement and command than velocity, and his 2016 numbers were sunk by a few disastrous outings, including a nine-run blowup against the Red Sox, a five-homer game in September against the Dodgers and a seven-run, three-homer loss to the Rockies on Opening Day.

Prediction: Giants 5, Diamondbacks 2. MadBum homers and gets the win.

Chicago Cubs (Lester) at St. Louis Cardinals (Martinez), 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

The Cardinals scored just two runs off him in three games against Jon Lester last season, but the highlight here will be Dexter Fowler playing against his old teammates after signing a big deal with the Cardinals. It may take Cubs fans a while to realize that the Jon Jay/Albert Almora Jr. platoon in center field isn’t going to come close to replicating Fowler’s .393 OBP.

Prediction: Cubs 4, Cardinals 1. Who needs David Ross? Lester is just fine without his personal catcher.


Atlanta Braves (Teheran) at New York Mets (Syndergaard), 1 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Noah Syndergaard shot out of the gates looking like a cross between Nolan Ryan, Pedro Martinez and a certain superhero, posting a 1.87 ERA through his first 10 starts last season. He wasn’t quite as dominant the rest of the way, with a 3.00 ERA over his final 20 starts. There are obvious reasons to expect a better season, however, starting with a .334 BABIP allowed, the fourth highest of any qualified starter. He had the highest average fastball velocity of any starter, but the key to him becoming a Cy Young winner is making that fastball a little less hittable — batters hit .283 against it. One thing we do know: He’s ready for Opening Day.

Prediction: Mets 5, Braves 0. Syndergaard dominates with seven shutout innings, while Yoenis Cespedes hits a two-run homer in the first.

Miami Marlins (Volquez) at Washington Nationals (Strasburg), 1:05 p.m. ET

Stephen Strasburg gets the start over Max Scherzer due to Scherzer’s stress fracture in the lower knuckle of his right ring finger (he should be ready to start the season’s third game), but the player to watch is Bryce Harper, who looked locked in and healthy in spring training with eight home runs as he seeks a return to his 2015 level of dominance. He’s enjoyed Opening Day before: He homered the past two openers and hit two in 2013.

Prediction: Nationals 7, Marlins 2. Harper does, indeed, go yard … twice.

Pittsburgh Pirates (Cole) at Boston Red Sox (Porcello), 2:05 p.m. ET