Odds courtesy of OddsShark.com
The 2020 Major League Baseball season was to begin March 26, but the coronavirus changed all that. Nearly four months late, the 60-game regular season starts Thursday night with two ESPN nationally televised games: New York Yankees at Washington Nationals (7 p.m. ET) and San Francisco Giants at Los Angeles Dodgers (10 p.m. ET). Play ball!
The Nationals won their first-ever World Series title last October and in normal circumstances would raise their championship banner at Nationals Park and hand out World Series rings to players before the season opener, but GM Mike Rizzo has said neither will happen until fans are allowed in the stands – and that’s almost surely not going to be the case until 2021.
Until late last week, it wasn’t even a sure thing the Nats were going to be able to play at Nationals Park due to strict coronavirus protocols in DC, but they have been cleared to do so. Washington actually lost all three home games in last year’s World Series yet still beat Houston in seven.
It’s a spectacular pitching matchup between the Yankees’ Gerrit Cole, the AL Cy Young favorite, and the Nationals’ Max Scherzer, a three-time Cy Young winner. They faced off in Game 1 of the 2019 World Series in Houston with Cole taking the loss for the Astros, allowing five runs over seven innings. Scherzer allowed two runs in five in getting the win. New York is a -145 favorite with Washington at +125 and a total of 7.5.
The Nationals have lost three players to an opt-out: Pitcher Joe Ross, first baseman/DH Ryan Zimmerman and catcher Welington Castillo. Not huge on their own, but depth will be important in this shortened season with the virus potentially sidelining players daily.
In the nightcap, the Dodgers are -310 favorites against the rival Giants, who are +255. The total is 8 runs with Johnny Cueto on the mound for San Francisco and three-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw on the bump for Los Angeles.
It will be the Dodgers debut of 2018 AL MVP Mookie Betts, acquired this offseason in a trade with the Boston Red Sox. The Giants will be without former NL MVP and batting champion Buster Posey, one of the best offensive catchers in MLB the past decade. He has opted-out of the season for family reasons. All games this season will include the designated hitter.