World Series rematch, World Cup qualifying, and the Final Four

(Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire)

All start times listed in EST.

Mets vs. Royals – Apr 3, 8:37PM ESPN

Look, I don’t know what sick and twisted TV producer made this happen, but five months after the Kansas City Royals won the World Series by beating the New York Mets in five games, that bastard is forcing me to watch the two face off again on Opening Day. (Dammit, Daniel Murphy!)

That’s right, the first pitch of the new season will be thrown this Sunday. The Mets and Royals will cap off a day of baseball that also features the Cardinals and Pirates, and the Blue Jays and Rays. Last year’s playoffs were full of epic bat flips and fantastic pitching, so MLB is trying to recapture that magic by putting all ten participants into action against each other during the season’s opening two days.

It’ll take a hell of a long time for the narratives of this season to take shape, but Sunday evening’s duel between the Mets and Royals will be a good chance for fans of both teams to put their pride on the line. New York replaced the error-prone Murphy with Pirates second baseman Neil Walker, and re-signed star slugger Yoenis Cespedes to a one-year deal. Matt Harvey will likely get the start and will face a Royals team that knocked him out of the 9th inning in Game 5.

PECOTA, the forecasting system from Baseball Prospectus, has picked the Royals to finish last in the AL Central, but they’ve beaten those projections two years running. (Check out the Effectively Wild podcast previewing their season for more on why that is.) The defending champions lost a few key free agents, including Ben Zobrist and Johnny Cueto, but their hit to contact philosophy still has this Mets fan scared, at least for Opening Day.

A series sweep won’t alleviate Mets fans post-season pain, but it will be a good omen for 2016. #LGM.

USMNT vs. Guatemala – March 29, 7:00PM, ESPN2

If you missed the game on Friday night you might be surprised to learn that the United States’ Men’s Soccer Team has found themselves in a very precarious fight to even qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

Guatemala, who until Friday had never beaten the US in a World Cup qualifying match, put up two first-half goals and coasted to victory on their home turf. The return match this Tuesday in Columbus, Ohio, is a must win game for the US. Theoretically they can still qualify without one, but anything short of an emphatic victory by the Stars and Stripes should see national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann out of a job before the team hits the showers.

Everything could turn out just fine, or it’ll be dumpster fire.

Villanova vs. Oklahoma – April 2, 6:09PM, TBS

Back in December, Oklahoma beat Villanova by 23, handing the Wildcats their first and worst loss of the season. The two are set to meet again this Saturday, playing their rematch in the NCAA Tournament’s Final Four.

In the last round, the Sooners, led by All-American Buddy Hield, decisively dispatched Oregon, while Villanova edged out the other #1 seed, Kansas. Villanova is slightly favored by odds makers, and their tight defense, which stole the ball 11 times against Kansas, will be a good counterpoint to Oklahoma’s potent offense.

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Justin Hargett is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Eephus, and the host of The Big Game podcast.