The official schedules have been released and the opening game of the 2020 season will in fact be the Nationals and the Yankees on Thursday, July 23rd. On the heels of months of deliberation, America will see the return of major professional sports with the New York Yankees visiting D.C. where they’ll take on the Nationals in the first of a three game series between the two clubs. The realities of a 60 game season set in as the Nats begin their championship defense against the Bronx bombers in what will be their only series matchup of the season.
In any other actuality this opening series would whet the appetite of baseball fans, especially baseball-starved fans. Other than the gravity of the sports return, the major story will be the assumed pitching matchup: Max Scherzer against Gerrit Cole. Cole, set to make his debut in pinstripes, has an interesting history with the Nationals as he was famously left in the bullpen in Game 7 of the 2019 World Series. A decision that is widely believed to have set in motion events that led to the Nationals comeback win and their first World Series championship.
“It’s obviously an enticing matchup, having pitched against them in the World Series last year and them being defending World Series champs,” said Cole. Following the World Series, Gerrit Cole signed a record nine-year $324 million deal with Yankees. In a stroke from the pen of the baseball deities, Cole will be able to make his much-anticipated debut against the team he should have faced in that fateful game 7. “I’m excited for it. I think opening up in D.C. is perfect for the country.”
This series is only the beginning of both club’s regionally restricted schedules. Keeping them in their division for 40 games and rounding out the other 20 with eastern seaboard inter-conference opponents. AL East and NL East teams will get to know each other well over the truncated season. For the Nats, playing arguably the strongest team the AL East has to offer this early in the season could prove an advantage, especially in a season where each series carries with it more importance than ever.
Along with the regular season schedule release, three exhibition games were announced starting with the Phillies traveling to D.C. on Saturday, July 18th. The other two games will feature the Baltimore Orioles in home and home contests. The Nationals travel to Camden Yard on Monday, July 20th and then returning to Nationals Park the following day. The Nationals and the Orioles will play each other 6 times this season as they are inter-league rivals.
Baseball storylines aside, the importance of this opening game cannot be understated. Not only for the sport but also for the country at large. Nationals Park will take center stage for Major League Baseball on July 23rd in a symbolic return to a sense of normalcy for the country. Something as simple as baseball in July will demand national attention from fans all over the country, even if none will be in the stands.