Start times announced for NLDS Games 1 and 2

The Cubs are the biggest national television draw in baseball right now, so it stood to reason the Nationals would find themselves playing in primetime throughout their first-round postseason showdown with the defending World Series champs.

That will be true for Game 1 of the National League Division Series, but the presence of the West Coast's biggest draw in the other half of the bracket is going to lead to an early-evening start on South Capitol Street for Game 2.

Major League Baseball announced start times for the first five days of this fall's postseason tonight, declaring that Game 1 at Nationals Park will begin at 7:31 p.m. Friday, with Game 2 at 5:38 p.m. Saturday.

Nats Park day game.jpgThis is a slight departure from previous postseason appearances by the Nationals. Of the 14 playoff games they have appeared in since 2012, only three started at 7 p.m. EDT or later (Game 5 in 2012 vs. the Cardinals, Game 4 in 2014 at the Giants, Game 5 in 2016 vs. the Dodgers). All others were afternoon affairs.

That will change in this matchup with the high-profile Cubs, who got all primetime slots one year ago during their march to the franchise's first championship in 108 years. But there is a slight difference this time around.

The other NLDS will feature two NL West foes, with the top-seeded Dodgers facing either the Diamondbacks or Rockies. Thus, the first weekend games for that series will all begin in the evening out west (late night back east).

Friday's full slate of four postseason games creates a tight schedule. The Red Sox and Astros play Game 2 of their American League Division Series at 2:05 p.m. EDT (1:05 p.m. in Houston), with the Indians hosting either the Yankees or Twins at 5:08 p.m. That game likely won't be over before the Nationals-Cubs series begins at 7:31 p.m., with Game 1 at Dodger Stadium then scheduled for 10:31 p.m. EDT (7:31 p.m. in Los Angeles).

With the AL teams traveling Saturday, the schedule opens up a bit more. Game 2 at Nationals Park begins in twilight at 5:38 p.m., with Game 2 at Dodger Stadium scheduled for 9:08 p.m. EDT (6:09 p.m. in Los Angeles).

Start times for the rest of the Division Series haven't been announced yet, but more late-afternoon/early-evening times appear likely. All NL postseason games will be televised by TBS.

The best news for fans attending Games 1 and 2 at Nationals Park: Both games should end well before Metro closes for the night. The last Green Line trains depart the Navy Yard station on Friday and Saturday at 12:52 a.m. (toward Greenbelt) and 1:18 a.m. (toward Branch Ave.).

A potential Game 5 on Oct. 12 would pose a bigger problem, with the last trains leaving at 11:22 p.m. (toward Greenbelt) and 11:48 p.m. (toward Branch Ave.). Metro does now have the option of staying open later for special events, but only if the event hosts (ie. the Nationals or MLB) pays $100,000 per extra hour of service, with nonrefundable deposits required in advance.

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