Carlos Osorio/Associated Press
Baseball is back.
It may not look, sound or feel the same, but MLB Opening Day 2020 is finally here. We didn’t know if we’d reach this point, and we aren’t sure how long it will last, so let’s cherish this moment and cross our fingers that the campaign keeps proceeding as planned.
Below, we’ll break down any and everything you need to know about Thursday’s two-game, season-opening slate, including scheduling particulars, the latest odds from Caesars Palace and our predictions.
MLB Opening Day 2020 Schedule
New York Yankees at Washington Nationals
Time: 7:08 p.m. ET
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Odds: Yankees -130, Nationals +120 (O/U 7.5)
San Francisco Giants at Los Angeles Dodgers
Time: 10:08 p.m. ET
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Odds: Dodgers -300, Giants +250 (O/U 8)
Yankees at Nationals
A clash between the Yankees and Nationals needs no additional hype.
New York has the most World Series championships in MLB history (27) and finished last season with the third-most wins (103). Washington is the defending World Series champ and, despite the offseason departure of All-Star third baseman Anthony Rendon, remains right in the hunt to claim another.
Again, the hype speaks for itself. But the starting pitching matchup sends it into another atmosphere.
Three-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer is on the bump for the Nationals fresh off a third-place finish in last season’s voting. Then, the 6’3″ hurler pitched to a 2.92 ERA with 243 strikeouts across 172.1 innings.
Opposing him is Gerrit Cole, who was the runner-up for the AL Cy Young last season, when he helped the Houston Astros reach the World Series. He had an AL-best 2.50 ERA and an MLB-leading 326 strikeouts over 212.1 innings.
As ESPN Stats & Info observed, Scherzer and Cole would be the first two pitchers to square off on Opening Day with a 300-strikeout season on their resume.
This has almost everything you’d want in a campaign opener. The stakes are high. The rosters are loaded. The only hangup is an ominous threat of showers and thunderstorms that could wash out this highly anticipated collision.
If the weather cooperates, this could be an instant classic. Look for Cole and Scherzer to mostly contain the opposing hitters, with the Yankees breaking through late as they boast the deeper lineup and the superior bullpen.
Prediction: Yankees 5, Nationals 3
Giants at Dodgers
San Francisco and L.A. share one of the most storied rivalries in baseball history. That’s the primary source of intrigue in what appears a pretty lopsided matchup on paper.
The Dodgers are riding a seven-season streak of NL West titles, and their 2019 campaign was arguably the most impressive of the lot. They won a franchise-record 106 games, leading the NL in homers (279) and the Majors in ERA (3.37).
Never one to rest on their laurels, they followed up that campaign—which ended in a 3-2 Division Series loss to the eventual champion Nationals—by acquiring four-time All-Star and former AL MVP Mookie Betts from the Boston Red Sox. They subsequently locked up the 27-year-old star outfielder by agreeing to a 12-year, $365 million extension on Wednesday, as ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported.
“I just love being here,” Betts told reporters in a videoconference call from Dodger Stadium. “I love everything about here. I’m here to win some rings and bring championships back to L.A.”
The Giants are technically the first hurdle for the Dodgers to clear, but they’re trending in the opposite direction from their in-state rivals.
After winning three World Series titles in a five-year span (2010, 2012 and 2014), San Francisco has missed the postseason each of the last three years. On paper, the Giants figure to make it four in a row, as their offseason was defined mostly by departures (namely, starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner and closer Will Smith).
The Giants gave Farhan Zaidi control of baseball operations in November 2018 and tasked him with overseeing a full-scale rebuild. They’re in the early stages of that process, and it shows on their roster.
Saying that, San Francisco would like nothing more than spoiling L.A.’s season-opener. It will rely on veteran starter Johnny Cueto to strike the first blow, and he’ll be opposed by three-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw.
To highlight the discrepancies of these rosters, Cueto posted a 5.06 ERA across four starts last season upon returning from Tommy John surgery. Kershaw went 16-5 with a 3.03 ERA, which was his highest since his rookie year in 2008.
While baseball can be unpredictable from night to night, it would be a massive upset if the Giants were to win. Our crystal ball doesn’t see that happening, or the Dodgers even breaking much of a sweat.
Prediction: Dodgers 7, Giants 2