Baseball’s Opening Day arrives Thursday, with the March 29 date the earliest in the sport’s history, not counting any overseas openers. It also was to be the first Opening Day since 1968 – then because openers were delayed to April 10 due to the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. – that every team was to be in action. Except Nats at Reds was postponed.
Why the changes? As part of the collective bargaining agreement, the MLBPA negotiated three-to-four more days off for teams this season. The MLB owners weren’t about to shorten the 162-game schedule so they simply pushed back the openers by a few days.
The first pitch of the new season will come from Miami around 12:40 p.m. ET with the Chicago Cubs as -185 betting favorites against the Marlins at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com The Cubs have made three straight trips to the NLCS, including winning one World Series, and are heavy favorites to win the NL Central Division again.
The Marlins, meanwhile, are projected to be the majors’ worst team after new ownership led by Derek Jeter traded the club’s four best players, Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon, in an effort to save money. It’s going to be a long season in south Florida.
The defending World Series champion Houston Astros open the season at the arch-rival Texas Rangers. Justin Verlander gets the Opening Day call on the mound for the Astros, who surely don’t win the first title in franchise history without trading for Verlander late last August. Houston is the MLB betting favorite to repeat as World Series champion, which no team has done since the New York Yankees won three in a row from 1998-2000.
Many will be focused on the Yankees in their Thursday afternoon opener in Toronto with the team’s new murderers’ row of Stanton, Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez. Stanton led the majors with 59 homers last year in winning NL MVP with the Marlins, Judge hit an MLB rookie-record 52 homers last year and won AL Rookie of the Year honors, and Sanchez has hit 53 homers in 177 career big league games, the fourth most ever by any player through that many. Blue Jays lefty J.A. Happ is the unfortunate opposing pitcher and a +140 underdog on the betting lines.
And the Los Angeles Dodgers open defense of their NL pennant against the visiting arch-rival San Francisco Giants. It looked to be the marquee pitching matchup of Thursday between the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw and Giants’ Madison Bumgarner. However, Bumgarner is likely out until June after recently suffering a broken pinkie on his pitching hand. Kershaw, the three-time Cy Young winner, didn’t allow a run in 21.1 spring innings. The Dodgers are easily the biggest favorites on the board.
For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.
Source: Heavy Sports