Major League Baseball is back in just two days. And this year, it’s take me out of the ballgame.
The MLB season gets underway (sans fans) on Thursday night with a double-header on ESPN, followed by Opening Day for all teams on Friday, July 24. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the MLB’s regular season has been reduced to just 60 games (compared to the standard 162), which should make it the most competitive season since the last time pro baseball only played 60 games, all the way back in 1878.
So there’s good reason to feel optimistic about your team’s chances in 2020, even if the season itself will take place under a cloud of concern. Here’s an overview of all the nationally televised games on Sling through the end of the month, along with odds to win each division, and more.
What Games Will Be Nationally Televised?
Great question: Sling will carry over 20 games from Opening Night through the end of July, mostly on ESPN and Fox/ FS1. Because this year’s schedule will feature 40-games inside the division, along with 20 interleague games against opponents in the same region (AL West vs. NL West, etc.), there’s not quite as many different match-ups this season. But if familiarity breeds contempt, there should be some heated battles in each division and across leagues. Here's the July MLB Schedule on Sling.
|Day and Date||Time||Game||Channel|
|Thursday, July 23||7:00 PM ET||NY Yankees @ Washington||ESPN|
|Thursday, July 23||10:00 PM ET||San Francisco @ LA Dodgers||ESPN|
|Friday, July 24||4:00 PM ET||Atlanta @ NY Mets||ESPN|
|Friday, July 24||6:10 PM ET||Detroit @ Cincinnati||MLBN|
|Friday, July 24||7:00 PM ET||Milwaukee @ Chicago Cubs||ESPN|
|Friday, July 24||9:10 PM ET||Seattle @ Houston||MLBN|
|Friday, July 24||10:00 PM ET||LA Angels @ Oakland||ESPN|
|Saturday, July 25||1:05 PM ET||Milwaukee @ Chicago Cubs||FOX|
|Saturday, July 25||2:15 PM ET||Pittsburgh @ St. Louis||MLBN|
|Saturday, July 25||4:10 PM ET||San Francisco @ LA Dodgers||FOX|
|Saturday, July 25||7:15 PM ET||NY Yankees @ Washington||FOX|
|Saturday, July 25||9:10 PM ET||Arizona @ San Diego||FS1|
|Sunday, July 26||1:05 PM ET||NY Yankees @ Washington||TBS|
|Sunday, July 26||4:10 PM ET||LA Angels @ Oakland||MLBN|
|Sunday, July 26||7:00 PM ET||Atlanta @ NY Mets||ESPN|
|Sunday, July 26||10:00 PM ET||San Francisco @ LA Dodgers||ESPN|
|Tuesday, July 28||6:05 PM ET||NY Yankees @ Philadelphia||FS1|
|Tuesday, July 28||9:10 PM ET||LA Dodgers @ Houston||FS1|
|Thursday, July 30||7:15 PM ET||Cleveland @ Minnesota||FOX|
|Thursday, July 30||7:15 PM ET||Boston @ NY Mets||FOX|
|Thursday, July 30||9:45 PM ET||San Diego @ San Francisco||FS1|
What are the Odds to Win the Division?
As we mentioned up top, the truncated schedule means this season is as wide open as the outfield at Comerica Park. That said, there are still favorites, and they're mostly the teams one might expect. Here are the odds for each team to win their division in 2020 (as of Tuesday, July 21).
|New York Yankees||-298|
|Tampa Bay Rays||210|
|Boston Red Sox||1033|
|Toronto Blue Jays||2567|
|Chicago White Sox||309|
|Kansas City Royals||8500|
|Los Angeles Angels||567|
|New York Mets||297|
|St. Louis Cardinals||240|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||-622|
|San Diego Padres||733|
|San Francisco Giants||7833|
Who is Sitting Out This Year?
As you might expect, a number of MLB players are sitting out this season due to the pandemic, including multiple former Cy Young winners and an MVP. Here’s a list of the players who have decided to forfeit their salaries (and a year of eligibility on their contracts) by staying home:
Mike Leake, RHP, Diamondbacks
Ryan Zimmerman, 1B, Nationals
Joe Ross, RHP, Nationals
Ian Desmond, OF, Rockies
David Price, LHP, Dodgers
Tyson Ross, RHP, Giants
Felix Hernandez, RHP, Braves
Nick Markakis, OF, Braves
Buster Posey, C, Giants
Michael Kopech, RHP, White Sox
Jordan Hicks, RHP, Cardinals
What Else Should I Know?
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the highest profile member of the White House coronavirus task force, will throw out the first pitch at the Washington Nationals home opener against the New York Yankees on Thursday. He’s a fitting choice for the ceremonial honor and it’s one he could be repeating in the World Series, since these two teams are among the favorites for the Fall Classic.
In other coronavirus news, in the absence of actual spectators, the MLB will be piping in fan noise. According to ESPN, “stadium engineers will pump in about 75 different crowd reactions from noise compiled over several seasons and used in the MLB The Show video game.”
There are a couple of rule changes this season as well. The biggest is that the NL will also use the designated hitter this year, so pitchers (who hit a collective .131 last season) will have to do more work from the mound, less from the plate. In an effort to speed up the game, relief pitchers will now have to face a minimum of three batters, barring the end of an inning. And in what could be the most consequential move, extra innings will now begin with a runner already on second base (during the regular season). In other words, don’t expect as many marathon games this season.
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