The 2023 NHL All-Star Game is on tap next weekend, and once the break is over, the volume of trades should really start heating up as teams fall into the “playoff contender” and “there’s always next year” cohorts.
As of this point, there are no teams that have clinched a playoff spot, and no team is mathematically eliminated either. So let’s take a look at each team’s current playoff chances (per FiveThirtyEight), and identify what could go right or wrong to reverse that trend.
How we rank: A panel of ESPN hockey commentators, analysts, reporters and editors rates teams against one another — taking into account game results, injuries and upcoming schedule — and those results are tabulated to produce the list featured here.
Note: Previous ranking for each team refers to the most recent edition, published Jan. 20. Points percentages are through Thursday’s games.
Previous ranking: 1
Points percentage: 83.33%
Next seven days: @ FLA (Jan. 28), @ CAR (Jan. 29), @ TOR (Feb. 1)
Playoff chances: >99%. Boston should be offended their odds aren’t an even 100%. The Bruins are a postseason lock, and then some.
Previous ranking: 2
Points percentage: 72.34%
Next seven days: vs. SJ (Jan. 27), vs. BOS (Jan. 29), vs. LA (Jan. 31), @ BUF (Feb. 1)
Playoff chances: >99%. Carolina would have to face the mother of all rough patches to not make a fifth consecutive postseason appearance. And that’s saying a lot, considering the Hurricanes have weathered their share of adversity and keep coming out on top.
Previous ranking: 4
Points percentage: 68.75%
Next seven days: @ DAL (Jan. 27)
Playoff chances: 95%. New Jersey is tracking toward just its second playoff appearance in 10 years. An imminent fall off the rails is wildly unlikely, and the Devils project to be one of the must-watch clubs in what will be a talent-packed Eastern Conference field.
Previous ranking: 5
Points percentage: 69.39%
Next seven days: vs. OTT (Jan. 27), vs. WSH (Jan. 29), vs. BOS (Feb. 1)
Playoff chances: >99%. Toronto reaching 18-wheeler-off-a-cliff territory is all that could negate earning a playoff spot. How far the Leafs end up going in the postseason is a whole other calculation, of course.
Previous ranking: 3
Points percentage: 67.02%
Next seven days: vs. LA (Jan. 28)
Playoff chances: >99%. Tampa Bay is a sure thing — at least to reach another postseason. The Lightning’s biggest potential for derailment (aside from compounding injuries) might be fatigue. Headlining the Stanley Cup Final three seasons in a row takes its toll. Is there load management in the future to safeguard against disappointment? Stay tuned.
Previous ranking: 7
Points percentage: 65.00%
Next seven days: vs. NJ (Jan. 27)
Playoff chances: 97%. Dallas has lost consecutive games in regulation only once since November, and just four times total this season. The Stars will carry that promise into a surefire postseason opportunity.
Previous ranking: 6
Points percentage: 63.00%
Next seven days: vs. PHI (Jan. 28), vs. STL (Jan. 30)
Playoff chances: 93%. Winnipeg should have no trouble staying on course to a well-deserved postseason slot. The Jets’ only potential stumbling block could be figuring out how to maximize the luxury of an (almost) healthy roster, without disrupting chemistry that’s taken them so far already.
Previous ranking: 9
Points percentage: 64.89%
Next seven days: vs. CGY (Jan. 27), vs. CBJ (Jan. 28)
Playoff chances: 93%. Seattle needs its goaltending to hold up. That’s it. Because there’s little else that could hold this high-powered Kraken crew back from their inaugural playoff showing.
Previous ranking: 10
Points percentage: 62.50%
Next seven days: vs. VGK (Jan. 27)
Playoff chances: 89%. New York is on thin ice in the ultracompetitive Metropolitan Division. Teams are breathing down their neck already, and to hold tight in the top three, GM Chris Drury can’t be shy about adding a player (or two) ahead of the trade deadline. That insurance would help prevent New York from slipping into wild-card territory.
Previous ranking: 8
Points percentage: 62.25%
Next seven days: @ NYR (Jan. 27), @ NYI (Jan. 28)
Playoff chances: 82%. Vegas needs its health. Injury troubles have pushed the Golden Knights off track before, and they’ve been an issue already throughout this season. Vegas squirrelling away wins early should protect their postseason potential, though — barring a further pileup of ailments to come.
Previous ranking: 14
Points percentage: 58.51%
Next seven days: vs. STL (Jan. 28)
Playoff chances: 93%. Colorado just recorded its longest win streak of the season — at six games — and looks increasingly like the reigning Stanley Cup champion we expected. And when the Avalanche are hitting their stride, there’s little doubt playoffs lay ahead.
Previous ranking: 12
Points percentage: 60.00%
Next seven days: @ FLA (Jan. 27), @ TB (Jan. 28), @ CAR (Jan. 31)
Playoff chances: 63%. Los Angeles can pump up their playoff outlook as buyers before trade deadline. The salary cap won’t make it easy, but the Kings’ adding another left-shot defenseman, bottom-six forward or even a depth goaltender would aid in holding off Edmonton or Calgary for the Pacific Division’s third seed.
Previous ranking: 11
Points percentage: 59.57%
Next seven days: vs. BUF (Jan. 28)
Playoff chances: 81%. Minnesota must fear a surging Avalanche (and really, who doesn’t?) The Central was suffocating enough, and now that Colorado is climbing, the Wild have to keep pace or risk duking it out for a wild-card berth into the postseason.
Previous ranking: 13
Points percentage: 59.18%
Next seven days: vs. CHI (Jan. 28)
Playoff chances: 86%. Edmonton has racked up wins lately thanks to overall improved play, from forward balance to strong special teams to dialed-in defense. The Oilers can’t rest on their laurels or revert back to bad habits like leaning too heavily on its stars. Edmonton’s postseason hopes — and success — depend on being more multi-dimensional than that.
Previous ranking: 16
Points percentage: 59.38%
Next seven days: vs. SJ (Jan. 28)
Playoff chances: 75%. Pittsburgh looked poised, at one point, to be a powerhouse. Currently, they barely hold a playoff spot. The Penguins can improve their odds by adding forward depth ahead of the deadline, and hoping certain defensive stalwarts — including Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin — can keep flourishing.
Previous ranking: 18
Points percentage: 56.12%
Next seven days: @ SEA (Jan. 27)
Playoff chances: 56%. Calgary must find its identity. It’s not all the way locked in yet. To make the postseason, Calgary has to execute like a playoff-caliber team. But putting on a full 60-minute effort might be the easy part. The Flames’ challenge is to keep coming together, decide what they really are and lean into it.
Previous ranking: 15
Points percentage: 56.86%
Next seven days: @ TOR (Jan. 29), @ CBJ (Jan. 31)
Playoff chances: 59%. Washington is in that middle-of-the-pack position that makes a pre-trade-deadline move imperative. The Capitals need to target blue-line help. John Carlson is hurt now, and if there’s an opportunity to bolster the back end sooner than later, Washington could boost its postseason positioning that much faster.
Previous ranking: 20
Points percentage: 57.29%
Next seven days: @ MIN (Jan. 28), vs. CAR (Feb. 1)
Playoff chances: 35%. Buffalo is at a crossroads: Are they a young team standing pat until next season, or is a playoff push now in their sights? Because the opportunity to swing big is there. The Sabres’ best chance of a springtime berth involves adding defensive depth, possibly targeting an impactful bottom-six forward, continued excellence from its top-six group and consistent goaltending. Buffalo has surprised all season; what else is up its sleeve?
Previous ranking: 17
Points percentage: 56.25%
Next seven days: No games
Playoff chances: 43%. Nashville longs for consistency. Juuse Saros is playing well in net (.920 save percentage) and the Predators have improved offensively since Christmas into a top-15 goal-scoring team. To extend its second-half potential into a postseason shot, Nashville has to get consistent scoring every game.
Previous ranking: 22
Points percentage: 52.00%
Next seven days: vs. LA (Jan. 27), vs. BOS (Jan. 28)
Playoff chances: 30%. Florida needed better goaltending to turn its season around. Now, the Panthers just need healthy goaltenders. Sergei Bobrovsky was sidelined last week with a lower-body issue and Spencer Knight is just back from injury himself. Alex Lyon has been there to help, but Florida has simply got to give its goalie — whoever that is — all the support it can up front to have a shot at playoffs.
Previous ranking: 23
Points percentage: 53.19%
Next seven days: @ NYI (Jan. 27)
Playoff chances: 4%. Detroit showed some serious early-season promise, and they’re still an above-.500 team. If the Red Wings can start scoring again, and if Ville Husso can get some help, and if Detroit can tighten up defensively … maybe they find a way back to what worked before. If not, the Red Wings could be looking for a golden draft lottery ticket.
Previous ranking: 19
Points percentage: 51.00%
Next seven days: vs. DET (Jan. 27), vs. VGK (Jan. 28)
Playoff chances: 13%. New York has been in an offensive drought since mid-December. If that doesn’t change fast, and the Islanders still hold postseason aspirations, then GM Lou Lamoriello must target forward help on the trade market. And then hope that kick-starts better performances from within.
Previous ranking: 21
Points percentage: 50.00%
Next seven days: @ COL (Jan. 28), @ WPG (Jan. 30)
Playoff chances: 12%. St. Louis’ best chance of a postseason push is keeping all of its best players — including an eventually healthy Vladimir Tarasenko and Ryan O’Reilly — in the fold. And potentially being buyers instead of sellers ahead of the trade deadline. And then going on a magical win-almost-every-night kind of run. So yeah, it would be a lot.
Previous ranking: 24
Points percentage: 49.00%
Next seven days: @ WPG (Jan. 28)
Playoff chances: 1%. Philadelphia not being the worst team in their division is a (relative) achievement. There’s always next year to — maybe — get back in the playoff mix.
Previous ranking: 25
Points percentage: 47.87%
Next seven days: @ TOR (Jan. 27), vs. MTL (Jan. 28), @ MTL (Jan. 31)
Playoff chances: 1%. Ottawa rallied to overcome a slow start with its 12-5-2 run through late fall. Since then, the Senators have simply fallen. Would getting — and staying — fully healthy have kept Ottawa’s previous momentum and playoff hopes alive? A question that will linger into the planning for next season.
Previous ranking: 28
Points percentage: 38.78%
Next seven days: @ CAR (Jan. 27), @ PIT (Jan. 28)
Playoff chances: less than 1%. San Jose won’t be appearing in the postseason. But the Sharks could emerge as big winners at the trade deadline by moving marquee players like Timo Meier and Erik Karlsson in deals that set San Jose up for long-term success in the future. A fine consolation prize.
Previous ranking: 27
Points percentage: 44.90%
Next seven days: @ OTT (Jan. 28), vs. OTT (Jan. 31)
Playoff chances: less than 1%. Montreal losing Cole Caufield for the rest of the season was the end of any lingering postseason dreams. No matter. The Canadiens have a young core and plenty of potential playoff opportunities in their future.
Previous ranking: 26
Points percentage: 42.71%
Next seven days: vs. CBJ (Jan. 27)
Playoff chances: less than 1%. Vancouver responded surprisingly well to a coaching change last season. Can they do it again? Last season, the Canucks went from last in the Pacific to missing the playoffs by two points after Bruce Boudreau slid behind the bench. Rick Tocchet would be some sort of magician to coax an even better run out of Vancouver now … but hey, anything is possible.
Previous ranking: 29
Points percentage: 37.76%
Next seven days: @ ANA (Jan. 28)
Playoff chances: less than 1%. Arizona won’t parlay great performances from the likes of Karel Vejmelka and Clayton Keller into playoff games right now. But there are still a couple more years of possibility that Mullet Arena will host an NHL playoff tilt. And that’s fun to think about!
Previous ranking: 30
Points percentage: 36.17%
Next seven days: @ EDM (Jan. 28)
Playoff chances: less than 1%. Chicago is “Bound for Bedard” — as was their plan. The Blackhawks can help the cause by finding trade partners for Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, and really embracing the franchise’s future direction.
Previous ranking: 32
Points percentage: 35.71%
Next seven days: vs. ARI (Jan. 28)
Playoff chances: less than 1%. Anaheim can see the big picture here. Playoffs are out, clearly. But the Ducks have cap space to spare, a trade deadline looming to start the healing — er, improving — process and great odds in the Connor Bedard sweepstakes. And those are the odds that really matter for Anaheim.
Previous ranking: 31
Points percentage: 34.38%
Next seven days: @ VAN (Jan. 27), @ SEA (Jan. 28), vs. WSH (Jan. 31)
Playoff chances: less than 1%. Columbus has yet to win consecutive games in regulation this season, so the playoffs will remain something of a pipe dream.
MLB Opening Day is here! What we’re watching, live updates and more as baseball returns
Welcome to MLB Opening Day 2023!
After one of the most exciting preludes to a regular season in recent memory — from offseason chaos to players (and fans) learning baseball’s new rules and enjoying faster-paced games to an epic World Baseball Classic — it’s time to play ball.
What are we looking for as the season gets started? Our reporters give their pregame takes from the ballpark, plus we’ll post lineups as they are announced and live updates throughout the day, including takeaways from each game as it concludes.
Season preview: How all 30 teams rank as baseball returns | Predictions
New rules: What you need to know | Passan: Welcome to a new era
Jump to …
Live updates | Takeaways from completed games | Lineups and what to watch
Live updates: Opening Day sights, sounds and moments
Takeaways from every completed Opening Day game
Recap | Box score | Highlights
The last time we saw the Houston relievers, they were carving through opposing hitters in the postseason with cruel efficiency. On a night when the Astros celebrated their World Series championship at Minute Maid Park, the bullpen did not pick up where it left off. Yasmani Grandal homered off Rafael Montero to tie the game in the eighth and then Andrew Vaughn doubled in two runs off Ryan Pressly in the ninth. Indeed, with the rotation minus Justin Verlander, Dusty Baker needs another dominant year from his pen. He didn’t get it in the opener. Dylan Cease, meanwhile, did pick up where he left off after finishing second in last year’s Cy Young voting, striking out 10 and retiring 18 in a row at one point before ultimately getting a no-decision. — David Schoenfield
Recap | Box score | Highlights
We have our game of the day. Nineteen runs, 34 hits, multiple late-inning lead changes, Tyler O’Neill homering for the fourth consecutive Opening Day and a five-hit game from George Springer, including the game-tying blooper in the top of the ninth. More of this, thank you very much — even if it lasts 3 hours and 36 minutes. Not a great debut for the Cardinals bullpen as late-game relievers Andre Pallante, Jordan Hicks and Ryan Helsley all surrendered runs. Hicks even knocked catcher Willson Contreras out of the game when Contreras whiffed on catching one of Hicks’ 103 mph(!) fastballs, and the ball hit him in the knee. Contreras will remember his first official game in a Cardinals uniform for all the wrong reasons. — David Schoenfield
Recap | Box score | Highlights
Oneil Cruz and Hunter Greene will be competing as division rivals for the next six years, so while the Pirates and Reds aren’t exactly favored to make the playoffs, these two young stars are worth keeping an eye on because the spectacular may happen at any time. Round one in 2023 goes to Cruz, as he launched a 425-foot home run off a Greene 101-mph heater. Greene racked up the K’s — eight in 3.1 innings — but the command he showed down the stretch in 2022 wasn’t present, and it led to an early exit. He did, however, throw 44 pitches at 100-plus mph … which, well, velocity isn’t everything. — David Schoenfield
Recap | Box score | Highlights
The Rangers are a popular pick to make a leap in the American League and while Jacob deGrom gathered plenty of headlines leading into Opening Day, new manager Bruce Bochy has to like what he saw from his offense. A solid approach produced 10 hits and six walks as a nine run fourth inning changed the dynamic of the game.
Perhaps it made fans forget deGrom’s forgettable performance. He simply couldn’t put guys away after the first inning as the Phillies pummeled him with opposite-field extra base hits — five of them in total — chasing him from the game after just 3.2 innings. He gave up five runs in his Rangers debut. Thankfully his offense picked him up. Texas is an intriguing team with a veteran, know-how-to do it manager. — Jesse Rogers
Recap | Box score | Highlights
Max Scherzer versus Sandy Alcantara was the must-see pitching matchup of the day, and while that didn’t end up materializing, this game had a little bit of everything. Mets owner Steve Cohen hung out in right field with the Mets fan club 7 Line Army. Jeff McNeil was given a strike because Pete Alonso took too long to get back to first base. The Mets blew a 3-0 lead but rallied as Brandon Nimmo hit a go-ahead two-run double. In the absence of Edwin Diaz, David Robertson got the save. The biggest Mets news of the day, however, came before the game when Justin Verlander went on the IL — joining Diaz and Jose Quintana. Mets fans will enjoy the win and then start sweating Verlander’s injury on Friday. — David Schoenfield
Recap | Box score | Highlights
We get our fourth shutout of the day as the Twins shut down the Royals on two hits, tying their team record for fewest hits allowed on Opening Day. New starter Pablo Lopez drew the start and tossed 5.1 innings with eight strikeouts, but the key takeaway is the Twins have a chance to have a really good bullpen. Caleb Thielbar, Jorge Lopez, Griffin Jax and Jhoan Duran combined for the final 3⅔ hitless innings with Duran and his 100 mph fastball finishing it off, so Duran does get ninth-inning duties over Lopez (who was an All-Star in that role for the Orioles last season). Also: Byron Buxton legs out a triple. Stay healthy, BB. — David Schoenfield
Recap | Box score | Highlights
One sequence from Shane McClanahan, facing Jonathan Schoop in the fifth inning: Changeup on the outside corner, swing and a miss; curveball low and in, taken for a ball, looked like a strike; another changeup that starts on the outside and darts left at the last moment like a Wiffleball, swing a miss; 97 mph four-seamer at the top of the zone, swing and a miss. Good night and good luck. Look, the Tigers aren’t exactly the ’98 Yankees, but McClanahan is one nasty lefty. He looked like the pitcher who dominated the first half last season and started the All-Star Game, throwing six scoreless innings and registering 16 swings and misses. He’s an ace. — David Schoenfield
Recap | Box score | Highlights
Boston threw gasoline on the overreaction fears of fans with their performance on Thursday. Opening Day starter Corey Kluber looked like a mess, struggling to throw strikes and working deep into counts, going 3⅓ innings while walking four and allowing five runs on six hits. The Red Sox bullpen struggled to throw strikes too, as Zack Kelly walked two batters followed with Ryan Brasier allowing three runs on two walks in an inning.
While the Red Sox offense struggled in the first half of the game, they slowly chipped away at Baltimore’s lead. After scoring a run to bring Boston within two, Masataka Yoshida came to the plate as the go-ahead run. Yoshida promptly grounded into what looked like a sure double play to end the game, but Orioles shortstop Jorge Mateo made a throwing error, bouncing a ball to first baseman Ryan Mountcastle that allowed Boston to come within one run. Baltimore held on, though, with Felix Bautista striking out Adam Duvall to end the game.
Boston ultimately could not keep up with the Orioles offensive output, which was led by star catcher Adley Rutschman, who had five hits and four RBIs with a homer, looking every bit the part of the player he became upon his callup last season.
Fans left Fenway Park by the top of the sixth inning, leaving large splotches of seats empty, an unusual Opening Day sight at Fenway Park since John Henry brought the team ahead of the 2002 season. — Joon Lee
Recap | Box score | Highlights
It was a brisk game at Wrigley Field in more than one sense of the word. It was a chilly 42 degrees at first pitch, and for fans worried about lingering in the cold, their first pitch-clock game zipped by in 2 hours, 21 minutes. Warning to scorecard keepers: Stay alert and forget bathroom breaks. There’s no time. The Cubs took advantage of a rare erratic outing from Corbin Burnes, who walked three and struck just three. Highlighting the Cubs piecemeal offense was a three-hit game for Dansby Swanson in his Cubs debut, backing a sharp Marcus Stroman. Stroman would certainly prefer this day be remembered for his six shutout innings. Alas, he will go down in the history books as the first pitcher to be issued a pitch clock violation in a regular season game. It was a familiar day at Wrigley Field even as the game on the field felt, well, not exactly new. Let’s say it felt tuned up. — Bradford Doolittle
Recap | Box score | Highlights
On the second pitch he saw as Yankees captain, Aaron Judge homered into Monument Park, 422 feet away. Rookie Anthony Volpe manned shortstop — at 21 the youngest Yankee to start on Opening Day since Derek Jeter — and, while he didn’t get a hit, he kissed the “NY” on his jersey during the Bleacher Creatures roll call, then walked in his first plate appearance and stole his first base. Gerrit Cole set a Yankees Opening Day record with 11 strikeouts. The Bombers’ bullpen threw three scoreless innings to preserve a shutout against the San Francisco Giants. It was chilly day in the Bronx, but pretty much a perfect afternoon for the home team. And the whole thing took a grand total of 2 hours and 33 minutes. — Matt Marrone
Recap | Box score | Highlights
No surprise here. A team that won 101 games last season beat a team that started a pitcher who led the majors in losses each of the past two seasons. The Braves knocked out Patrick Corbin in the top of the fourth inning after hitting him around for seven hits, three walks and four runs. It wasn’t all happy news for the Braves, however, as Max Fried left the game in the fourth inning with left hamstring discomfort. The Braves are already starting the season with rookies Jared Shuster and Dylan Dodd in the rotation, so their starting pitching depth will be tested early on here if Fried misses any time. Bryce Elder probably gets the first call if Fried has to go on the IL, with Ian Anderson another option. — David Schoenfield
What to watch and lineups for remaining Opening Day games
The pitching matchup: Shohei Ohtani vs. Kyle Muller
The big storyline: As it was, as it is, as it shall be: Shohei Ohtani. He’s not only the One Big Opening Day storyline, he’s bound to be one big season-long storyline. This could be the beginning of the end to Ohtani’s career as an Angel, and it starts on the mound — and in the batter’s box — in the barren expanse of the Oakland Coliseum, nearly five years to the day after he made his first big league start on the same exact spot.
One obscure thing to impress your friends: Center fielder Cristian Pache, considered the best prospect in the trade that sent Matt Olson to the Braves, couldn’t crack Oakland’s Opening Day roster despite being out of options. He was traded Wednesday for Billy Sullivan, a Phillies reliever who had a 4.59 ERA in Double-A. “It was really hard to run out of time with a player that you feel is young and still has a huge future in this game,” A’s manager Mark Kotsay said. The A’s, a franchise eternally waiting for something — a new home, a contending team, the next trade of a known quantity for a group of unknowns — finally found something that wasn’t worth the wait. — Tim Keown
1. Taylor Ward (R) LF
2. Mike Trout (R) CF
3. Shohei Ohtani (L) P
4. Anthony Rendon (R) 3B
5. Hunter Renfroe (R) RF
6. Luis Rengifo (S) 2B
7. Brandon Drury (R) 1B
8. Gio Urshela (R) SS
9. Logan O’Hoppe (R) C
1. Tony Kemp (L) 2B
2. Conner Capel (L) DH
3. Aledmys Diaz (R) SS
4. Seth Brown (L) LF
5. Jesus Aguilar (R) 1B
6. Ramon Laureano (R) RF
7. Jace Peterson (L) 3B
8. Shea Langeliers (R) C
9. Esteury Ruiz (R) CF
The pitching matchup: Zac Gallen vs. Julio Urias
The big storyline: Teams doled out free agent dollars in record fashion this offseason, but the Dodgers, among the most aggressive spenders these past few years, opted to mostly stand pat in order to create a path for their homegrown players. We’ve already seen that backfire in one respect, with Gavin Lux, primed to be the everyday shortstop, suffering a season-ending knee injury in spring training. Do they have enough to contend the way they have over the past decade? And can the D-backs — an underrated team that plays really good defense, runs the bases well, received solid contributions from key members of its rotation last season and has several young players ready to make an impact — give them a run?
One obscure thing to impress your friends: Keep your eyes on Miguel Vargas, the 23-year-old who will get his first opportunity to play every day in the major leagues. His hitting has never really been in question — the concern has been his defense. But the Dodgers believe he’ll be a lot better defensively at second base than many outsiders expect, pointing to the work he put in during the offseason. They see him as a potential breakout star, somebody who will compete for the Rookie of the Year award. Just as important: He plays with high energy, runs the bases aggressively and should be lots of fun to watch. — Gonzalez
1. Kyle Lewis (R) DH
2. Ketel Marte (S) 2B
3. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (R) LF
4. Christian Walker (R) 1B
5. Evan Longoria (R) 3B
6. Nick Ahmed (R) SS
7. Corbin Carroll (L) CF
8. Gabriel Moreno (R) C
9. Jake McCarthy (L) RF
1. Mookie Betts (R) RF
2. Freddie Freeman (L) 1B
3. Will Smith (R) C
4. Max Muncy (L) 3B
5. J.D. Martinez (R) DH
6. David Peralta (L) LF
7. Miguel Vargas (R) 2B
8. James Outman (L) CF
9. Miguel Rojas (R) SS
The pitching matchup: Shane Bieber vs. Luis Castillo
The big storyline: One of just two Opening Day games where both teams made the playoffs last year (Blue Jays-Cardinals is the other), this one showcases a terrific pitching matchup between Bieber and Castillo. That’s fun, but all eyes will be on Julio Rodriguez, who enters the season as one of the must-watch players in the game after his stellar Rookie of the Year campaign. He ranked seventh on ESPN.com’s list of the top 100 players in the game, an aggressive ranking, but symbolic of what the 22-year-old might achieve after hitting .284 with 28 home runs and 25 steals — with the charisma to match.
One obscure thing to impress your friends: The Mariners made the playoffs last year for the first time since 2001, but going back to 2007, they have the best Opening Day record in the majors at 13-3 (the Mets and Dodgers are 12-4). Much of that is thanks to Felix Hernandez, who started 11 Opening Day games and posted a 1.53 ERA. — Schoenfield
1. Steven Kwan (L) LF
2. Amed Rosario (R) SS
3. Jose Ramirez (S) 3B
4. Josh Bell (S) DH
5. Josh Naylor (L) 1B
6. Andres Gimenez (L) 2B
7. Will Brennan (L) RF
8. Mike Zunino (R) C
9. Myles Straw (R) CF
1. Julio Rodriguez (R) CF
2. Kolten Wong (L) 2B
3. Ty France (R) 1B
4. Teoscar Hernandez (R) RF
5. Cal Raleigh (S) C
6. Eugenio Suarez (R) 3B
7. Jarred Kelenic (L) LF
8. Tommy La Stella (L) DH
9. J.P. Crawford (L) SS
Rutschman carries O’s in historic 5-for-5 opener
BOSTON — Baltimore Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman felt the Opening Day jitters. Last year was supposed to be his first season opener, but a right triceps strain delayed his debut until May. And so when he woke up on Thursday morning in Boston, hours away from first pitch, he felt the jitters up and down his body.
“I was hoping it would wait until I at least got to the field,” he said.
When the season officially kicked off, those jitters were nowhere to be found. Rutschman made a statement on Opening Day, going 5-for-5 with a home run and four RBIs, becoming the first player since 1937 to go 5-for-5 or better with a home run on Opening Day and the first catcher with five hits on Opening Day since at least 1900, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
The offensive outburst from Rutschman carried the Orioles’ offense for the day, as Baltimore left Fenway on Thursday with a 10-9 victory, thanks in large part to the catcher’s four RBIs and one run scored.
“The hits are awesome,” Rutschman said. “But the winning for me is more important.”
Orioles fans had been waiting for this. The years of losing, all for the promise that one day the team would turn things around with a plethora of young, homegrown talent. At the center of that is Rutschman, who shined once he made his major league debut in 2022. The switch-hitter slashed .254/.362/.445 with 13 homers, 35 doubles and 42 RBIs with 5.2 fWAR, the second-highest total for a catcher in the majors behind the Phillies’ J.T. Realmuto.
“There’s been a lot of great players who’ve worn this uniform,” said Orioles manager Brandon Hyde. “He’s gonna be the doing other things that are the first as well.”
For the Orioles, Rutschman represents hope for the future. After finishing in last place in four of the five seasons from 2017 through 2021, the Orioles surprisingly finished in fourth place in 2022 in large part due to the catcher’s contributions to the team. After Rutschman arrived in the big leagues in 2022, the team played at an 89-win pace, going 16-24 before his major league debut.
That impact shined on Thursday. On his first swing of the season, Rutschman launched a sinker from Red Sox starter Corey Kluber into the right-field seats at a projected 402 feet, making him the youngest Oriole to homer in the first at-bat of Opening Day since Cal Ripken Jr. in 1984. He singled in the third but was thrown out at second on an awkward slide that led to him kicking Red Sox second baseman Christian Arroyo in the head. After drawing a walk in the fourth, he gave the Orioles an 8-2 lead with a two-run single in the fifth. An RBI single followed in his next at-bat in the seventh, but Rutschman was thrown out at second again.
Rutschman reached on an infield single in the ninth in his final at-bat.
“Once I start playing the game, those kinds of things go away and I’m able to calm down and just play,” Rutschman said of his jitters. “I’m able to calm down and just play. But until those jets fly over and we get that first pitch, there’s definitely excitement.”
The only other catchers to reach base five or more times were Yogi Berra in 1956, Todd Hundley in 1995 and Jason Varitek in 2002. Rutschman — at 25 years, 52 days old — also became the youngest Orioles player since Adam Jones (24 year, 248 days) in 2010 to homer on Opening Day.
And while it’s just one game, the historic day for Rutschman represented why Baltimore can see the light at the end of the rebuilding tunnel. Reinforcements are coming, too, with infielder Gunnar Henderson believed to be a Rookie of the Year candidate and a pair of top prospects in pitcher Grayson Rodriguez and shortstop Jackson Holliday projected to be in the big leagues at some point in the next two seasons.
But for now, Rutschman is not thinking too far ahead, just trying to enjoy his first Opening Day in the big leagues. Hyde said he is not taking his star catcher for granted.
“He’s a super special player,” Hyde said. “A really good hitter, and he hasn’t played a full year yet. Good things coming.”
Judge launches 2023’s first homer in opening AB
NEW YORK — Yankees fans did not have to wait long for reigning American League MVP Aaron Judge‘s first home run of the 2023 season.
In the first inning on Opening Day, Judge saw a 93 mph sinker from San Francisco Giants ace Logan Webb and deposited it 422 feet over the Yankee Stadium center-field wall for his first home run of the year, his first one as Yankees captain and the first one leaguewide in 2023.
He later added a single as the Yankees rolled to a 5-0 victory.
Before taking the field Thursday, Judge had joked about Major League Baseball scheduling a Giants-Yankees Opening Day matchup for the first time ever, putting him up against the team that he rooted for growing up in Northern California and also pursued him in free agency as much as the Yankees did.
“I don’t know who at MLB did that to me,” Judge said with a smile, “but it’s great. Logan Webb’s a great pitcher, he’s had a couple great years, and looking forward to many more out of him. But it’s going to be a fun afternoon, that’s for sure, getting a chance to play the team I watched a lot as a kid.”
Judge had considered joining the Giants in the offseason before signing a nine-year, $360 million deal to remain with the Yankees.
“It was kind of a dream come true getting a chance to speak with them and get an opportunity to go there,” Judge said of the Giants. “But in the end, it just worked out for me to come back to the Yankees, and I’m happy with my decision.”
Yankees manager Aaron Boone said before the game that the “low point” of his winter was when he thought that Judge would sign with San Francisco.
“One of my lowest, darkest places this winter was when I thought maybe it was in jeopardy that he was coming back,” Boone said. “For whatever period of time, that was one of the darkest places I went, was picturing him on that third-base line in a Giants uniform on Opening Day. That’s something that was not a good thought or picture.”
In 2022, Judge was voted AL MVP after threatening for the Triple Crown, finishing first in home runs (62) and RBIs (131) and second in batting average (.311), recording an inordinate 1.111 OPS and breaking Roger Maris’ 61-year-old AL home run mark.
Before the game, Judge made sure to shift the focus on any expectations of another 60-homer season. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the last player with even back-to-back 45-homer seasons was Ryan Howard, who surpassed that total in four straight years from 2006 to 2009.
“I know very few followed up with 60. A couple I know hit 50 after that. But we’ll see what happens,” Judge said. “Maybe we can make a new list. We’ll see.”
Pitcher Gerrit Cole also had a banner 2023 debut on his fourth Opening Day start in pinstripes, striking out 11 Giants through six innings to set a franchise record previously held by Tim Leary (9 strikeouts, 1991). Webb also set a Giants Opening Day record when he recorded his 12th strikeout in the sixth inning.
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