On Opening Day, Teams Put Their Best Arms Forward

On Opening Day, Teams Put Their Best Arms Forward

Optimism abounds on opening day. Just about every team — sorry, Oakland and Washington — starts the year believing the playoffs are in its future, and every player is hoping to get off to a fast start.

But while Tuffy Rhodes, a journeyman outfielder, may have finished 1994’s opening day on pace for 486 home runs that season, the first day of each campaign is more often defined by the quality of the starting pitching matchups. Teams work diligently to get their aces lined up for that game, and it is the day fans can most reliably expect to see the best pitcher nearly every team has to offer.

In some cases, including in the Yankees’ and Mets’ first games on Thursday, they’ll get to see a superstar on the hill for both teams.

The Yankees, who are looking to extend their streak of winning seasons to 31, will have their ace right-hander, Gerrit Cole, going up against Logan Webb of the San Francisco Giants, a good pitcher for the last few seasons who could be in line for a breakout year in 2023.

“I really like the way he pitches,” Cole told reporters when asked about Webb, a right-hander who had a 2.90 E.R.A. in 32 starts last season. “Aggressive, good sinker, good dude.”

It helps that Cole got an endorsement of Webb from his brother-in-law, Brandon Crawford, the Giants’ shortstop.

It will also be ace against ace in Miami as Max Scherzer of the Mets is lined up against Sandy Alcantara, the Marlins’ No. 1 starter and last season’s unanimous winner of the National League’s Cy Young Award.

“It’s a heck of a day to pitch on,” Scherzer told reporters when asked about opening day. “The atmospheres are crazy every single venue that you’re in. It’s going to be a great day, and it’s really fun to be out there and get the ball in that situation.”

The top matchup of the day beyond those featuring New York teams will arguably come when Aaron Nola of the Philadelphia Phillies goes up against Jacob deGrom, the former Mets star, who is now the No. 1 starter of the rapidly rebuilt Texas Rangers rotation.

Thursday’s action will also feature terrific pairings like Dylan Cease of the Chicago White Sox against Framber Valdez of the Houston Astros; Zac Gallen of the Arizona Diamondbacks against Julio Urías of the Los Angeles Dodgers; and Shane Bieber of the Cleveland Guardians against Luis Castillo of the Seattle Mariners.

All of those pitchers are capable of making batters uncomfortable. But the most difficult conditions on Thursday will probably come in Chicago, where Corbin Burnes will start for the Brewers against Marcus Stroman of the Cubs in a game that would be hard for hitters even if forecasters weren’t predicting high-40s temperatures and a chance of rain.

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