Major League Baseball’s attempt to play the 2020 season will begin at Nationals Park with a nationally televised matchup between the reigning World Series champions and the sport’s most storied franchise.
The Nationals will host the Yankees on July 23 at 7:08 p.m., the first half of an opening night doubleheader on ESPN that - if successfully pulled off - will serve as the highly anticipated return of major professional team sports in America.
MLB’s shortened, 60-game planned schedule, which was released tonight, doesn’t bear much resemblance to the 162-game marathon that has been synonymous with the sport for six decades. Teams will only face opponents from their division and the other league’s same geographic division.
All of this, of course, is contingent on MLB, clubs, players, staff members and testing services successfully following the daunting protocols put in place for this unprecedented season while keeping everyone healthy, a challenge that already has proven quite difficult. The Nats had to cancel today’s workouts because they had yet to receive results of the COVID-19 tests they had players take Friday, despite assurances from the league and its testing partner the process could be completed in 24 hours.
If they’re able to play through completion of the season, the Nationals will have 10 games apiece against their four National League East rivals, but the home-road splits vary by opponent. They’ll face the Mets and Phillies six times at home, four times on the road. They’ll face the Braves and Marlins four times at home, six times on the road.
The Nats’ 20 interleague games against AL East clubs include six contests with the Orioles on back-to-back weekends (Aug. 7-9 at Nationals Park, Aug. 14-16 at Camden Yards). In addition to their three-game home series with the Yankees (July 23-26), they’ll travel to Fenway Park for a three-game series against the Red Sox Aug. 28-30. They’ll play four straight games against the Blue Jays: July 27-28 at home, July 29-30 in Toronto. They’ll also face the Rays a total of four times: Sept. 7-8 in D.C. and Sept. 15-16 at Tampa Bay.
Following their initial five-game homestand against the Yankees and Blue Jays - with a scheduled off-day July 24 while 26 other clubs hold their season openers - the Nationals make their first road trip to Toronto and Miami. That first series in particular is tenuous, with the Blue Jays potentially forced to relocate to their spring training site in Dunedin, Fla., or an alternate site in Buffalo if the Canadian government doesn’t allow games to be played in Toronto.
All five homestands run between five and seven games. The four road trips include a pair of two-city trips (Toronto and Miami from July 29-Aug. 2, then Tampa Bay and Miami from Sept. 15-20) and a pair of three-city trips (New York, Baltimore and Atlanta from Aug. 10-19; then Boston, Philadelphia and Atlanta from Aug. 28-Sept. 6).
The Nationals are scheduled to close the regular season with a seven-game homestand against the Phillies (Sept. 21-23) and Mets (Sept. 24-27).
There are seven scheduled off-days, but the Nats are scheduled to play 19 days in a row from Aug. 21-Sept. 8).
With fans not permitted to attend games for the foreseeable future, the Nationals were able to get creative with game times. Nineteen of their home games are set to begin at 6:05 p.m., an hour earlier than usual. Most Sunday afternoon home games will begin at 12:35 p.m., also an hour earlier than usual.
The Nationals have scheduled three exhibition games, the most permitted by MLB. They’ll host the Phillies on July 18, go to Baltimore on July 20 and host the Orioles on July 21. All exhibitions are scheduled to start at 6:05 p.m.