While there are still many unknowns due to COVID-19, baseball fans can have peace of mind knowing that baseball is right around the corner. We came a step closer on Monday, July 6, 2020, when MLB announced the 2020 schedule for all 30 teams, with Opening Weekend being July 23-26. Each organization will play 60 games within their geographic location – East, Central, and West.
The Washington Nationals will begin their World Series defense when they host the New York Yankees in the first game of the season. All three games against the Yankees, a favorite to win the American League pennant, will be broadcasted on national television.
When the 162-game schedule was released for the Nationals before the pandemic, the Nationals had a tough schedule but a manageable one thanks to the number of games played. With the 60-game geographic schedule, however, the Nationals have one of the toughest schedules in baseball.
The breakdown for the Nationals season is as follows: 40 games inner-division (NL East) and 20 games against the division’s AL counterpart (AL East). According to VegasInsider.com, six of the top ten teams to win the World Series are in either division. The only two presumed non-contenders on the schedule for Washington are the Miami Marlins and the Baltimore Orioles.
NL East (40 games versus)
The Atlanta Braves enter the season as the favorite to win the division for the third consecutive season. Led by Ronald Acuña Jr., Ozzie Albies, and Freddie Freeman offensively and Mike Soroka on the mound, the Braves have the tools to be the best team in all of baseball. They also added power-hitter Marcell Ozuna and veteran starter Cole Hamels to the mix, making them a tough matchup each night.
The Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets are in similar positions entering the shortened season. Both organizations have the assets to win games and even the division, but they’ll need to stay healthy for a full 60 games.
The Phillies had a disappointing season in 2019, finishing at .500 and fourth in the division. They’ll be looking for big numbers out of J.T. Realmuto and Bryce Harper, as well as newcomer Didi Gregorius. They’ll also rely heavily on their pitching staff, who struggled to get outs at times last season.
The Mets mid-season surge a year ago propelled them to 86 wins, with many thanks to the 2019 NL Rookie of the Year Pete Alonso. If their lineup can pick up where it left off and their rotation, with the additions of Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha, can remain a strength, the Mets could be a tough team to face come late-September.
The Marlins should take a step closer to contention but, will still struggle mightily again in 2020. They will run out a lineup that remains mostly intact from their 2019, 57-win season and their rotation returns unchanged. If they’re to have any amount of success, they’ll need their young rotation to make major strides this season.
AL East (20 games versus)
The Yankees won 103 games in 2019 and there is little reason to think that they will not win at the same clip in 2020, as they did a season ago. They return an explosive lineup with the likes of Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sánchez, Gleyber Torres, and more. The starting rotation will also look very similar, with the addition of Gerrit Cole and the subtraction of Luis Severino due to Tommy John surgery.
Aside from the Yankees, the AL East is poised to make noise despite the short season. The Tampa Rays opened a lot of eyes in 2019 with their 96 wins and they are just getting started. Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow, and Charlie Morton will again front the rotation, while a plethora of youth headlined by Austin Meadows, lead the offense.
The Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays are both wild cards as we look ahead to the 2020 season. The former is coming off an 84-win season but, traded away All-Star’s David Price and Mookie Betts to Los Angeles. They’ll also be playing without ace Chris Sale, who will miss the season due to injury. The Blue Jays finished 2019 on a bright note and return a young lineup with a lot of pop and flare. Toronto added to their rotation of Hyun-Jin Ryu, Chase Anderson, and Tanner Roark, which should help immensely.
Similar to the Marlins, little is expected from Washington’s I-95 rival in Baltimore. The Orioles won just 54 games a season ago and were toward the bottom in the league in most offensive and pitching statistical categories.
The schedule allows for Dave Martinez to utilize the Nationals big three starters (Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin) in ten of the team’s first 13 games. If any of them are not ready to throw every five days once the season gets underway, Martinez may elect to utilize Erick Fedde and/or Austin Voth to round out the rotation with Anibal Sánchez in the fourth slot.
After the opening series with the Yankees, Washington can relax some as they face the Marlins and Orioles nine times over their next 19 games. The end of the season could prove tough though, as they face the Phillies and Mets in back-to-back series to close out the short season.
Adding to the unknowns of the 2020 season, it’s impossible to say who could be affected and/or be unable to play due to the pandemic. In recent weeks, we’ve seen players opt out of the upcoming season, and there will surely be more as we get closer to Opening Day. It’s also likely that many players will miss a third or more of the season if they test positive for – or come into contact with someone who has tested positive – for COVID-19.
You can watch the Nationals during Opening Weekend by tuning into:
- Thursday, July 23, 2020 at 7:08 p.m. ET on ESPN.
- Saturday, July 25, 2020 at 7:15 p.m. ET on FOX.
- Sunday, July 26, 2020 at 1:05 p.m. ET on TBS.