Opening Day 2011
The MLB returns for it's 111th year with it's two-league system as the Giants begin their title defense against their rivals, the Yankee's try to overcome the Tigers at Yankee Stadium, and of course, the traditional first pitch of the season by the President of the United States of America at Nationals Park in Washington.
Atlanta Braves @ Washington Nationals
As has been the tradition ever since the Expos moved to the capital of the USA, President Barack Obama will start the season by throwing out the first pitch of 2011 in front of a Washington crowd that is currently suffering Steven Strasburg withdrawal. Strasburg suffered an injury last August while pitching against the Philadelphia Phillies, which required Tommy John surgery, taking him out for the remainder of the season and most of this season. However, the Nats fans do have something to cheer about, as Jayson Werth now patrols right field in Nationals Park in a white uniform with the curly W, rather than a gray one with the Phillies' P.
Meanwhile, the Braves look forward to the return of Chipper Jones, who suffered an injury in midseason, while they also attempt to repeat a playoff run without the help of their legendary former manager, Bobby Cox. Jason Heyward will give it a shot at having an opening day similar to that of last season, when he clobbered the pitching of Carlos "Big Z" Zambrano of the Cubs.
One of the added bonuses is that this year, like the last few years, DirecTV will be giving its subscribers a free trial of MLB Extra Innings, so if you don't get MASN or SPORTSOUTH, you can still watch the first game of the season through Extra Innings.
Detroit Tigers @ New York Yankees
After getting shut down by the mighty Cliff Lee in the American League Championship Series, and then discovering that Lee liked Philadelphia, Wood liked Chicago, and Pettite liked retirement a whole lot more than New York City, the Yankees are hurting bad. Or at least hurting a lot more than they usually are. Many have forgotten that Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mariano Rivera, Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Mark Texiera, and C.C. Sabathia are still in pinstripes, and that Rafael Soriano has joined them. Those are some huge stars, and Yankee Stadium will never have enough stars.
Detroit, however, missed the playoffs for the second year in a row, thanks in a large part to the club from the Twin Cities. The Tigers hope that the success they had in 2009 up until game 163 can be found again, on the shoulders of Miguel Cabrera and Brandon Inge. The Motor City's team will have a tough beginning, however, facing off against the Evil Empire on the road to begin the season, but then again, the Indians pulled off a victory in the stadium's first game, and the Red Sox didn't do so bad either on Opening Day 2010.
This game is the first in an ESPN triple-header, but Yanks fans can see their home broadcast on YES, while the Tiger fans can watch the FSTigers feed on FOX Sports Detroit.
San Diego Padres @ St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals suffered one of their biggest defeats in Spring Training when Adam Wainwright was injured and the team learned that their ace would need Tommy John surgery, taking him from the Redbirds for the entire 2011 season. In addition, they will be going through the season with the thought of their longtime star, the best player in Major League Baseball today, Albert Pujols, going to another team after the season, and perhaps even their biggest rivals, the Chicago Cubs. However, the St. Louis squad is doing their best to put that out of their minds, as Chris Carpenter will mount the mound for their season opener against the Padres at Busch Stadium, knowing that as it is, they still have the stuff to beat the Reds and claim the Central.
The Friars were a surprise story in 2010, as they were leading the West Division of the National League for much of the season, until some September struggles that came down to the final series against the eventual World Series Champion San Francisco Giants. Now, however, A-Gone is... well, gone, and a lot of offensive strength goes with it, taking away much of the expectations that they might have had for 2011. San Diego fans can only hope that repeated low expectations add up to repeated high results in 2011.
This game is the second of the tripleheader on ESPN, but the local yokels can watch their feeds on San Diego Channel 4, for the Padres fans, and the FSCardinals feed is on FOX Sports Midwest for the 'bird watchers. (blech @ the Cardinals)
San Francisco Giants @ Los Angeles Dodgers
Tim Lincecum takes the mound to begin the Giants' title defense in a rivalry that has survived everything from futility by both teams to a cross country move from New York to California. The Giants' team hasn't changed much--All of the stars from last season remain, including Brian "The Beard" Wilson and NL Rookie of the Year, Buster Posey. The team has high hopes, but to repeat a title run that seemed to have two of the greatest offensive teams in baseball catch slumps at just the right time will be a tough task that may require similar slumps to hit teams at the right time for the Giants to earn the 2011 Commissioner's Trophy as well.
The Dodgers will be trying to rebound from the first time they have not reached the playoffs since 2007, which will depend much on the pitching staff's performance, and will also need a resurgence by Jonathan Broxton, who was probably the best closer in the National League before the All-Star Game in Anaheim. As always, however, the Dodgers will be one of the competitors in the West division, right up there with the Giants and Rockies.
This game is the third of the tripleheader on ESPN, but unlike the other two, there are no local feeds.
The other games on Opening Day include:
Milwaukee Brewers @ Cincinnati Reds MIL Feed: FOX Sports North CIN Feed: FOX Sports Ohio
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim @ Kansas City Royals LAA Feed: FOX Sports West KC Feed: FOX Sports Kansas City