The 2019 postseason ended with the Nationals lifting the first World Series championship trophy in franchise history. On July 23, the 2020 regular season will begin with Washington starting its title defense.
The 2020 schedule, which Major League Baseball unveiled live on MLB Network on Monday night, features a tantalizing two-game Opening Night slate on the 23rd, broadcast on ESPN. First, the Nats will host the Yankees at 7:08 p.m. ET, in a matchup that could showcase Gerrit Cole making his Bombers debut against three-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer. That potential battle of aces will lead into the renewal of one of the sport’s fiercest rivalries, as the Dodgers launch their quest for an eighth consecutive National League West crown against the Giants at Dodger Stadium (10:08 p.m. ET).
Those juicy headliners lead the way for a revised slate that has been shortened to 60 games per team by the coronavirus pandemic. It’s a schedule that will look quite a bit different from before — with an increased emphasis on geographical proximity — but which will not lack for urgency or drama.
Following the pair of games on July 23, MLB-wide action begins on July 24. Opening Day presented by Mastercard and T-Mobile offers a 14-game menu — including the Rangers hosting the Rockies in the debut of Globe Life Field — and a full 15-game slate awaits on July 25. (The Nats and Yankees will be the only teams off on July 24.)
Each club’s slate of 60 games includes 40 against opponents from its own division (10 apiece), plus 20 spread among those from the opposite league’s corresponding geographical division (East vs. East, Central vs. Central and West vs. West). That will all set up the postseason, which will maintain the same 10-team format, which includes two Wild Card teams from each league.
Here is a more detailed breakdown of the revised 60-game schedules, which will run through Sept. 27.
40 divisional games (20 home, 20 road)
• 10 games against each opponent, split between three series
• Each of these matchups will have either one team playing seven games at home and three on the road, or six at home and four on the road.
20 Interleague games (10 home, 10 road)
• Six games against the team’s natural Interleague rival (three home, three road)
• Four games apiece against two other opponents in the corresponding division (two home, two road)
• One three-game home series against a fourth opponent
• One three-game road series against a fifth opponent
Each club will have six off-days, except for the four teams beginning the season on July 23. They will have seven apiece.
To help visualize what this will look like in practice, consider the Yankees. Here is how their schedule will break down:
40 divisional games
• 10 vs. BAL (4 home, 6 road)
• 10 vs. BOS (7 home, 3 road)
• 10 vs. TB (6 home, 4 road)
• 10 vs. TOR (3 home, 7 road)
20 Interleague games
• Six vs. NYM (3 home, 3 road)
• Four vs. ATL (2 home, 2 road)
• Four vs. PHI (2 home, 2 road)
• Three vs. MIA (home)
• Three vs. WSH (road)
One result of the revised schedule will be an increased emphasis on intradivision matchups. In a typical 162-game schedule, those make up 47% of a team’s games. That now rises to 67%. On the other hand, a team typically plays six or seven games apiece against each of the 10 teams outside its division but within its league; those clubs will not face each other in 2020, at least until the postseason.
The other major difference is the Interleague pairings. With the exception of each club’s natural Interleague rivalry matchup (Yankees-Mets, for example), those will now be different. (The original schedule called for the AL East to face the NL Central, the AL Central to face the NL West and the AL West to face the NL East).
Intradivision matchups will be on national display right from the beginning. In addition to the Dodgers-Giants clash on Opening Night, ESPN will broadcast five other games over the course of the season’s first weekend. Its Opening Day lineup on July 24 will feature the Braves at the Mets (4:10 p.m. ET), the Brewers at the Cubs (7:10 p.m. ET) and the Angels at the A’s (10:10 p.m. ET). “Sunday Night Baseball” premieres July 26 with a doubleheader of Braves-Mets (7:08 p.m. ET) and Giants-Dodgers (10:08 p.m. ET).
The season’s first weekend will be packed with other national broadcasts as well. FOX offers a Saturday tripleheader on July 25, with Brewers-Cubs (1:05 p.m. ET), Giants-Dodgers (4:10 p.m. ET) and Yankees-Nationals (7:15 p.m. ET). TBS also will begin its weekly Sunday coverage on July 26 with the finale of Yanks-Nats (1:05 p.m. ET).
Here are some other highlights from the schedule:
Aug. 13: Major League Baseball is still coming to Iowa this year. MLB at Field of Dreams presented by GEICO will take place, as scheduled, at 7:15 p.m. ET. But now, the White Sox will be playing the Cardinals instead of the Yankees in Dyersville, Iowa — the first MLB game ever played in the state. The two teams will face off at a newly constructed ballpark near the site from the film “Field of Dreams,” surrounded by corn fields.
Aug. 16: Major League Baseball will honor the 100th anniversary of the Negro Leagues.
Aug. 28: This will be the rescheduled date for the annual Jackie Robinson Day, which normally is celebrated throughout MLB on April 15, when every player dons Robinson’s universally retired No. 42 jersey. Appropriately, Aug. 28 is a significant date in the history of the country’s civil rights movement, marking the anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963 (which Robinson attended). Additionally, on that date in 1945, Robinson met with the Dodgers’ Branch Rickey to discuss the possibility of him signing with the team, which he did a couple of months later.
Sept. 9: Roberto Clemente Day will be celebrated across MLB, honoring the on- and off-field legacy of the Hall of Famer.
Sept. 27: It all comes down to this. For the sixth season in a row, every game on the final scheduled day of the regular season will begin at 3 p.m. ET, heightening the drama as clubs battle for playoff position. Of course, with the compressed 60-game schedule, there is also an increased chance that tiebreaker games will be necessary to settle the postseason picture.