Dates to circle on 2013 Cubs schedule

Dates to circle on 2013 Cubs schedule
March 31, 2013, 7:00 pm
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Tony Andracki

The best day of the year is upon us. The wait is over. The two most beautiful words are about to be uttered: Play ball.
Everybody has a clean slate. There are so many questions to be answered, but the simple fact of the matter is, anything can happen.
Which team is going to be this year's Athletics or Orioles? Who is going to be this year's Mike Trout?
The Cubs open their 2013 schedule in Pittsburgh and then head to Atlanta before making a stop back home. Let's take a look at some other dates to circle on the season schedule:

Make sure also to look at the the 2013 must-see games on the White Sox schedule.

April 8: Cubs vs. Milwaukee

The home opener. Wrigley Field will once again be packed with Cubs faithful. A 101-loss 2012 may turn some fans away initially, but if the weather is anything like we've gotten in Chicago lately (50 degrees has seemed almost like summer given the crazy and late winter we had), you can rest assured the stands will be full.

April 11-14: vs. San Francisco

You want to know if this is going to be the Cubs' year? They'll be tested early with 19 straight games against teams that finished with winning records and were in contention last season. The four-game series against the defending-champion Giants in Chicago will be a true measuring stick.

April 16-18: vs. Texas

With the Astros moving to the American League, it left 15 teams in each league, meaning interleague will be going on just about every day of the season. This is the Cubs' first AL matchup, against a perennial contender amid the aforementioned tough stretch. Interleague is always fun for fans, and this year, we don't have to wait until late May to see the Cubs' first series.

May 10-12: @ Washington

When the Nationals and Cubs met in Washington last September, the two teams wound up in a bench-clearing scuffle. The Cubs were swept in the four-game set, losing by a combined 22 runs. It was a defining moment in the Cubs' rebuild, showing just how far their on-field product was from the MLB-best Nats. Dale Sveum likened the series to "men playing against boys." But this is a new season, so how will 2013's Cubs-Nationals chapter play out?
May 17-19: vs. New York (NL)

When the Cubs and Mets get together, it's always entertaining. This one's more for the traditional Cubs fans, when the Mets were a legitimate rival. You know, the Ron Santo playing days and the 1969 heart-breaking season.

May 27-30: @/vs. Chicago

It's the crosstown twist. The Cubs and Sox play twice at U.S. Cellular Field before heading North to play a pair of games at Wrigley. It's the first year under the new format, and the first time bumping the series down from six games to four.

June 1: vs. Arizona

The Cubs hadn't played a Saturday night game at Wrigley Field from 1998 to 2010, but hosted the Giants two years ago and the Red Sox and White Sox last season for Saturday evening games. The first day of June brings the first Saturday night game of the season at Wrigley Field. In the future, these may be commonplace, but for now, they're special occasions.

June 4-5: @ Los Angeles (AL)

An up-close and personal look at the sensation that is Mike Trout. But, even on the off-chance the phenom is in a sophomore slump by this time, the Angels still boast the firepower of Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson.

June 21-23: vs. Houston

The first matchup with the Houston Astros, the newest members of the American League. With the move to the AL West, this is the only matchup the Cubs will have with the Astros this season, and they won't make a trip to Houston at all. It's going to be awfully weird not seeing the team play in Minute Maid in a regular season game (they played a pair of exhibition games this weekend) in 2013.

June 28-30: @ Seattle 

More interleague action. The Mariners have gone in a different direction since they last faced the Cubs, as franchise cornerstone Ichiro Suzuki is no longer manning the outfield. But, Felix Hernandez is still there and the front office worked hard to improve the long-suffering offense, so Seattle could be a contender.

July 2-4: @ Oakland

Every interleague series is worth noting, and with Oakland's suprise 2012 success, this will be a must-watch. The A's have the young pitching and talent to challenge again this year, so it will be a nice, fan-friendly series to watch on this holiday weekend.

July 13: vs. St. Louis

Another 6:15 p.m. start on a Saturday, this time against the Cardinals. Will definitely be a must-watch game.

July 26-28: @ San Francisco

This is a marquee series against the Giants once again, but this time with the trade deadline approaching, there will be plenty extra to watch. If the Cubs are sellers this year, it could be the last chance to catch some veterans in the Cubbie blue. 

Aug. 1-4: vs. Los Angeles (NL)

A matchup with the circus that is Los Angeles. The Dodgers have created so much buzz over the last six months with the whopping contracts they've acquired and this will be the Cubs' first look at the Dodgers.

Sept. 1: vs. Philadelphia 

This is the day the rosters expand to 40, which means it's the first chance to get a look at some of the younger guys who haven't spent much time -- or any time -- in the big leagues. Though, the Iowa Cubs' regular season doesn't end until Sept. 2, so most guys won't be moving to Chicago just yet. If the Cubs are out of it, this may also be time for the rookie auditions. Could a prospect like Jorge Soler progress fast enough to make his MLB debut in September? Seems highly unlikely, but crazier things have happened.

Sept. 27-29: @ St. Louis

Last series of the year. What better way to finish off 2013 than with a three-game set against the rival Cardinals?