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Eye on Rivalries: Juicy first week on tap

By Matt Snyder | Baseball Writer

Buster Posey Clayton Kershaw
Posey and Kershaw square off right out of the gate. (USATSI)

Throughout the 2013 season, we'll use this space to highlight one of sport's greatest features: The rivalry. It could be of the personal variety (Cole Hamels vs. Bryce Harper?), a traditional team rivalry, an old-school vs. new-school stat feud (Mike Trout vs. Miguel Cabrera, Part II?) or anything else. And with the first week, it's a great one for team bouts.

Old-school showdown

It's the defending World Series champion Giants against the uber-spending, Hollywood Dodgers. And it's an absolute treat for everyone who likes baseball, though this game was passed over for Sunday Night Baseball (seriously, how is this not the first game of the season?) and won't take place until five games have already started Monday. Right off the bat, we get a dandy pitching matchup, too, as Clayton Kershaw and Matt Cain take the ball. Or, rather, the man who finished second in NL Cy Young voting last season against the man who finished sixth and started the All-Star Game. Few conclusions can be drawn based upon the first three games of the season, but every game could be paramount in what is expected to be an excellent race in the NL West.

Four-letter network embrace

While the Red Sox and Yankees are slated by many to finish toward the bottom of the AL East this season, it's still the Yankees and the Red Sox. And, not surprisingly, they get to be on ESPN to kick off Monday's opening day coverage. The opening day game features a battle of potentially dominant left-handers, in CC Sabathia and Jon Lester -- the latter of whom is looking to bounce back after an awful 2012 season.

New blood in the East?

The Tampa Bay Rays were the doormat of the AL East until 2008 and have since not finished below third place, making the playoffs three times. The Baltimore Orioles only finished better than fourth once (third place in 2004) from 1998-2011 but made the playoffs last season. Are the two ready to become the new Yankees and Red Sox? We have to wait until Tuesday to see it, but the O's open in Tampa Bay for an exciting Week 1 series.

Intrastate and now intradivision foes

The Houston Astros are now in the AL West, joining fellow Texans, the Texas Rangers. The two will face off immediately, beginning the season on Sunday night in Houston.

Full-season interleague play is upon us

It's not a rivalry, but the Cincinnati Reds begin play against the Los Angeles Angels. Given that there are now an odd number of teams in both leagues -- 15 teams each -- we'll be seeing at least one interleague series throughout the season, and it's a beauty of a start with two clubs expecting big things this season.

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