With apologies to the Mariners and A’s, Opening Day has arrived at last. It’s actually Opening Days, with the Marlins and Cardinals christening Marlins Park (pictured) on Wednesday in St. Louis' 4-1 win. The remaining lid-lifters are spread between Thursday and Friday. Overreaction to Game 1 is an April baseball tradition, right there with red, white and blue bunting and ceremonial first pitches. But this is the first true competition stateside since Game 7 in St. Louis. The results matter. Every pitch is grounds for debate. And that’s the way it should be. Here’s a viewers guide to the season opener for each team. Enjoy. Watch as if your team is facing elimination. — Jon Paul Morosi
Red Sox at Tigers, Thursday, 1:05 p.m. ET
The poor, poor Red Sox. They’re trying to forget about last September’s collapse but can’t even get to Opening Day with a healthy closer. Andrew Bailey will miss a few months — yes, months — after undergoing thumb surgery. So who gets the ball if Boston has a one-run lead in the ninth — with Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder (pictured) due up?
Braves at Mets, Thursday, 1:10 p.m. ET
Johan Santana returns to a major league mound for the first time since 2010 — and with an Opening Day start, no less. Aside from the Madoff mess, the Mets have been an afterthought in New York. A strong performance by Santana could put them on the back pages — because the Yankees don’t play until Friday.
Phillies at Pirates, Thursday, 1:35 p.m. ET
OK, so maybe they don’t hate each other like the Flyers and Penguins. But if the Pirates want to show the baseball world that they’re ready to compete, there’s no better way than with a win against Roy Halladay.
Nationals at Cubs, Thursday, 2:20 p.m. ET
Stephen Strasburg makes the first Opening Day start of his career. Does he go eight shutout innings and begin the media frenzy all over again?
Blue Jays at Indians, Thursday, 3:05 p.m. ET
How does an Opening Day no-hitter sound? Ricky Romero might have the best chance of anyone. He’s a left-handed ace, and the Indians have a left-handed-heavy lineup. This is crazy talk, of course. But Cleveland isn’t known for favorable hitting weather in April.
Marlins at Reds, Thursday, 4:05 p.m. ET
OK, so this is a half-opener. The Marlins will be bleary-eyed after the debut of Marlins Park on Wednesday. So, this will be the Joey Votto show. Will the new $225 million man bask in a warm ovation and homer once or twice?
Dodgers at Padres, Thursday, 7:05 p.m.
Will Magic Johnson make the drive to San Diego and sit in the visiting executive box? While the purchase isn’t complete, this is the first game the Dodgers will play without the Frank McCourt divorce/bankruptcy haze since 2009. That’s worth at least a couple runs.
White Sox at Rangers, Friday, 2:05 p.m.
You know new White Sox manager Robin Ventura is tired of seeing those replays. Nolan Ryan might take an Advil or two, just in case the kid gets any ideas.
Twins at Orioles, Friday, 3:05 p.m.
Four essential questions about every Twins game: Did Denard Span, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau play? If so, how did they do? Did the starting pitcher last beyond the fourth inning? Is Gardy happy?
Yankees at Rays, Friday, 3:10 p.m.
Let’s get the AL East race started early, shall we? Rays ace James Shields is coming off the best season of his career, in which he led the AL with four shutouts. One team he’s never shut out: the Yankees.
Cardinals at Brewers, Friday, 4:10 p.m.
Will Mike Matheny fill out the lineup card properly? Will Derek Lilliquist dial 9, then 1, then the number in order to get the relievers ready? Will Lance Berkman remember to bring a warm-up ball with him to first base? So many details. But here’s the big story: How will the Brewers fans respond to Ryan Braun (pictured)?
Rockies at Astros, Friday, 7:05 p.m.
The Jim Crane era begins in Houston. Will Wandy Rodriguez be traded before he gets a chance to throw out the first pitch?
Giants at Diamondbacks, Friday, 7:10 p.m.
It’s the best pitching matchup in the National League draw: Tim Lincecum (two Cy Youngs) vs. Ian Kennedy (Cy Young candidate in ’11). The NL West could be one of the more fascinating races in baseball this year. Which of the chief contenders will make the early statement?
Royals at Angels, Friday, 10:05 p.m.
It will be worth staying up for this one: Eric Hosmer’s first Opening Day in the majors. ... What’s that? You’re interested in the other first baseman? Oh, right. Albert Pujols. Angels debut. Kind of a big deal.
Mariners at Athletics, Friday, 10:05 p.m.
Two teams with no chance of reaching the postseason playing at the worst ballpark in the major leagues. They might as well start this one at 3 a.m., too.