Chicago Cubs vs. Washington Nationals, Thursday 4/5, 1:20 CT: Opening Day!

A general view of Wrigley Field as the Chicago Cubs take on the New York Yankees in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

No matter what you think the Cubs will do this year, it's always great to have Cubs baseball back. Opening Day is exciting for the return of spring, sunshine and baseball. This will be my 36th Opening Day at Wrigley Field (and 31st in a row), and each one is special -- no matter what the team actually looks like. (Of course, a win today would be nice.)

The Cubs have opened against NL East teams before -- at Atlanta in 2010, for example. But the last home opener against an NL East club was against the Montreal Expos in 2003 -- the same franchise they'll be facing today. And with the Astros moving to the AL next year, there will have to be an opener involving interleague play. Are you ready for the Cubs to have an Opening Day against the Orioles? Could happen.

There isn't much more to say. This is the day we've been waiting for, for more than six months.

Two Cubs in particular will have something else to celebrate today: birthdays. Ian Stewart turns 27 today, and Steve Clevenger is 26.

Cubs lineup:

DeJesus rf, Barney 2b, Castro ss, Soriano lf, Stewart 3b, Baker 1b, Byrd cf, Soto c, Dempster p

Nationals lineup:

Desmond ss, Espinosa 2b, Zimmerman 3b, LaRoche 1b, Werth rf, DeRosa lf, Bernadina cf, Ramos c, Strasburg p

Mark DeRosa not only returns to Chicago, but in an Opening Day lineup.

Today's Starting Pitchers
Ryan Dempster
Ryan Dempster
Cubs
vs. Stephen Strasburg
Stephen Strasburg
Nationals
10-14 W-L 1-1
4.80 ERA 1.50
191 SO 24
82 BB 2
23 HR 0
vs. Wash -- vs. Cubs

Stats above are 2011 season final numbers

Ryan Dempster faced the Nats just once last year, on August 11 at Wrigley Field. He threw seven good innings, giving up just three hits and one run and striking out six. (The Cubs won the game. Don't look at the ninth inning, it'll just make you sick.) Current Nats are hitting .193 (16-for-83) against Dempster; Ryan Zimmerman is 6-for-16 with a home run.

Stephen Strasburg has never faced the Cubs. In fact, according to Jerry Crasnick:

He has never pitched in Wrigley or even been to the city of Chicago.

Maybe the distractions of our great city will keep his mind off pitching. (We can hope, anyway.) Strasburg has faced David DeJesus before -- and DeJesus is 2-for-3 against him.

Today's game is on WGN, MASN and WDCW (Ch. 50 in Washington). Here is the complete MLB.com Mediacenter for today.

MLB.com Gameday

Baseball-reference.com game preview

SB Nation game preview

Please visit our SB Nation Nationals site Federal Baseball.

If you are new here -- or if you've simply forgotten from past years -- here's the BCB regular season game thread routine. The game preview will normally be posted two hours before the first pitch (today's is a bit early because it's Opening Day). Then there will be a first pitch thread at game time -- today, that'll post at 1:20 p.m. CDT, and three overflow threads, at one hour, two hours and 2:45 after game time. Today, that'll be 2:20 pm, 3:20 pm and 4:05 pm CDT. The first pitch thread will appear on the front page. The overflows won't -- look at the "Recent Stories in Game Threads" box on the right sidebar. If you need more overflows due to extra innings or rain delays, post them in the fanshot section.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

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