Dodgers-Giants break in the new ESPN MLB schedule — a get-your-freak on ‘must-see’ Thursday night

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ESPN, which already forced movement of the Major League Baseball Opening Day from a traditional Monday to a Sunday night, has now received the OK to push it back to Thursday, March 31, and logged the Dodgers’ season- and home-opener against the defending champion San Francisco Giants as part of a tripleheader broadcast.

The Dodgers and Giants were scheduled to open the season with a four-game series beginning on Friday, April 1, with March 31 as a offday (after an exhibition game at Dodger Stadium against Seattle on March 30). ESPN has taken the late game of that series, scheduled for Monday, April 4, and moved it to March 31.

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The Dodgers-Giants are also scheduled to be the first Fox network broadcast of the season (on Saturday, April 2 at 1 p.m.) and the first ESPN “Sunday Night” telecast (Sunday, April 3, ESPN2). The Dodgers’ previous season opener on Friday, April 1 has been changed from a 1 p.m. start to 7:10 p.m.

The March 31 opener starts with coveage of Detroit at the New York Yankees (10 a.m.), followed by San Diego at St. Louis (1 p.m.) before the Giants-Dodgers (5 p.m.), which will be called by the new ESPN “Sunday Night Baseball” crew of Dan Shulman, Orel Hershiser and Bobby Valentine.

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The MLB season has opened on either Sunday or Monday every year since 1998 (excluding games played in Japan), and this is the first Thursday opener since 1976. The shift in starting the season earlier is to have it end on Wednesday, Sept. 28, so that the World Series ends earlier (instead of going into early November).

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