In a unique twist, the 2016 MLB season will kick off Sunday with a tripleheader of games to be televised on the ESPN family of networks throughout the day.

It had become customary for a single Sunday night game to begin the festivities ahead of a full Monday slate, but Major League Baseball decided to take a different approach this time around. And it is undoubtedly a major upgrade for baseball fans who have been waiting all winter for the season’s first official pitch.

Here is a full listing of every Sunday and Monday Opening Day game along with when and where to watch them, as well as predictions for how each of the contests will play out.


Opening Day Schedule


Cardinals vs. Pirates

The MLB regular season will officially start with one of the league’s best rivalries, as the Pittsburgh Pirates will host the St. Louis Cardinals in Sunday’s early game.

Both teams reached the playoffs last season with the Cards winning the NL Central by virtue of an MLB-best 100 wins, while the Bucs were forced to settle for a wild card despite winning 98 games, which was good for second in the entire league.

The Pirates have recently developed into a perennial playoff team much like the Cardinals, and shortstop Jody Mercer believes Pittsburgh is here to stay in that regard, according to CBS Pittsburgh: “We feel like that we kind of changed the culture a little bit, and we want to keep it that way, and it’s not just a fluke deal of two or three years it’s an every year thing, and we’re going to be right in the mix of things.”

If the Pirates are going to get their 2016 campaign off to an ideal start, then they will need a strong outing from probable starter Francisco Liriano, who is going up against Adam Wainwright.

The conditions figure to favor both hurlers, as cold weather is expected for PNC Park Sunday, per Steve MacLaughlin of WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh:

Liriano was solid if unspectacular in four starts against the Cards last season, as he went 1-1 with a 3.71 ERA, while Wainwright made just one relief appearance against the Pirates in 2015 after missing most of the season due to injury.

Both teams have some major questions in their starting lineup after the heart of the order, which is why their first meeting of the season has all the makings of a low-scoring affair.

Beating the Cards on Opening Day would be a major statement victory for the Pirates in terms of announcing their intentions to take the NL Central in 2016, and they will put themselves on track to do so with a 3-2 win, featuring outfielder Andrew McCutchen starring at the plate.


Blue Jays vs. Rays

The American League slate will begin Sunday afternoon with an AL East clash pitting the Toronto Blue Jays against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Toronto is coming off a season that saw it win the AL East and reach the American League Championship Series, and a win over Tampa to start the 2016 campaign would set it on a similar track for the second year in a row.

While the Rays will be at a major disadvantage at the plate, they will certainly have a fighting chance with ace Chris Archer on the mound. The Jays will counter with Marcus Stroman, who is set to make some history, according to’s Jayson Stark:

Perhaps the best lineup in baseball will back up Stroman, as Toronto features a heart of the order that includes reigning AL MVP Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Troy Tulowitzki.

That lineup produced the most runs in the league last season with 891, which was 127 more than the second-place New York Yankees.

As good as Toronto is at the dish, it is highly underrated defensively as well, which catcher Russell Martin believes will play a significant role in 2016.

“Because we’re making so much noise with the sticks, everything else was kind of in the shadow of that,” martin said, per Stark. “But our defense was just supreme. I can’t think of another team that’s better than us. Kansas City was definitely up there, but I think we’re right up there with them.”

That combination of hitting and defense makes the Blue Jays one of the top World Series contenders entering 2016, and it should be enough to help them score an Opening Day victory over the Rays by a score of 6-3.


Mets vs. Royals

The 2015 MLB season ended with the Kansas City Royals defeating the New York Mets to win the World Series, and that matchup will anchor ESPN’s Opening Day coverage Sunday night, as the reigning World Series champs will host the defending National League champions.

There is a great deal of excitement surrounding both teams in 2016, and that is evidenced by the fact that tickets to the game are in such high demand, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today:

Part of that is likely due to the fact that the Royals will enjoy a World Series celebration, but there is also a great deal of intrigue surrounding a World Series matchup so early in the season since the previous format of interleague play didn’t allow for it to happen.

In addition to that, there is some mystery surrounding the Mets’ pitching situation, as originally scheduled starter Matt Harvey was scratched from his final spring training start due to what manager Terry Collins called a “non-baseball medical issue,” per Tim Rohan of the New York Times.

The ailment turned out to be a blood clot in his bladder, but Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News later reported that Harvey would be good to go against Edinson Volquez on Opening Day.

KC may be at a disadvantage when it comes to starting pitching even with Harvey potentially at less than 100 percent, but it still has one of the best bullpens in baseball, anchored by Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera.

In addition to that, it boasts a deep and talented lineup. Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer, Kendrys Morales, Salvador Perez and Alex Gordon, among others, will lead it.

The Royals are also fantastic defensively, which allows them to win close games with great regularity, especially when they are able to manufacture some runs and get to the back end of their bullpen with a lead intact.

Kansas City was clutch throughout the postseason in 2015, particularly in the World Series, and that factor will help it come out on top with a 4-3 triumph over the Mets to begin its championship defense.


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