The season starts off in DC where the Yanks are favored by 1.5
Well, it’s almost three months later than originally scheduled, but Opening Day is finally upon us. After months of uncertainty and negotiations with the Players’ Union, Major League Baseball will begin its 2020 season tomorrow at 7:00 PM EST when the New York Yankees take on the Washington Nationals, and boy, are we in for a treat!
Yankees vs. Nationals is the perfect matchup to get Opening Day off on the right foot. On one hand, you have the New York Yankees. Not only are the Yanks the most popular team in the history of the sport, but you could make the case that the Yankees are the most famous professional sports team in the world. On the other side, you have the defending champion Washington Nationals who head into this season looking to defend their 2019 World Series victory.
On top of everything, this is an interleague game in an abbreviated season, so we have to enjoy this match-up while we can because we may not see it again for a long time. Who knows, this game may even be a preview of the 2020 World Series.
The Yankees come into this year as one of the favorites to win the World Series. FanDuel gives the Yanks the second-best odds to win the 2020 World Series (+400), right behind the LA Dodgers who are +380. After posting back-to-back 100-plus-win seasons, New York seemed so destined for the World Series, but the Yanks would end up falling just a bit short both times.
The Pinstripes believed that they were one good player away from finally making it to their first World Series since 2009. That’s where Gerrit Cole comes in. This off-season the 29-year-old Pitcher signed a nine-year, $324 million contract with the Bronx Bombers to become the team’s new ace. Cole is expected to be the catalyst that pushes the Yanks over the top to be the great team they want to be.
Up until this season, it always seemed that the Yankees didn’t have enough good pitchers to carry them to a championship. After the Cole signing though, you look at New York and realize they have the bullpen and starting rotation to give any team in the MLB fits, especially once Luis Severino returns from injury. If Gerrit Cole can be as effective for New York as he was for Houston, then the Yankees will have no problem being the best team in the American League.
The Nationals are looking to get 2020 off to a good start with a win. Max Scherzer will be on the mound for the Nats, so Washington should feel confident that they will be able to control New York’s bats for the first few innings of the game. In fact, the Yankees’ expected opening day roster has had its struggles against Max Scherzer in the past. MLB.com only listed four players on the Yankees that had an at-bat against Scherzer: Brett Gardner, Giancarlo Stanton, Luke Voit, and Chris Iannetta.
Those four players combined for just six hits in 25 at-bats against Scherzer. New York’s unfamiliarity with Max Scherzer gives Washington a slight advantage in the pitching department. I would be surprised if the Yanks manage to score more than one run in the first five innings of the game.
While fans may be more attracted to the Yankees’ Home Runs and big names, you can’t disregard the Nats’ effective bats. The Nationals finished the 2019 regular season with the fifth-highest batting average in the league at .265, right behind the Yankees. Meanwhile, when the 2019 playoffs came around, the Nats finished with the Athletics tied for the highest batting average of any team in the postseason.
Thankfully for Washington, the team was able to retain most of their players from last season, so you can be sure that they’ll be racking up the hits again this year. Plus, many players on the Nationals have faced off against Gerrit Cole before. Seven players in Washington’s projected starting lineup have recorded at least two at-bats against Gerrit Cole in their career. Furthermore, Cole surrendered two Home Runs and 11 RBIs to those seven Washington batters. Gerrit Cole will be a difference-maker for the Yankees this season, but that does not guarantee that his first game in pinstripes will go smoothly.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Matt, you’re an excellent writer, but we just want to know what your prediction is already!” Well, here’s the way I see things playing out. I think both starting pitchers are going to go six to seven innings, but the game will probably be tied up at that point either 1-1 or 2-2. When the teams go to the relievers, that’s when I feel like the Yankees are going to starting pulling away with the win.
It’s too hard to look up and down at the Yanks’ opening day roster and think they are going to be held to less than three runs. Washington will not be able to cover the spread, and the Yankees emerge from this one with the first win of the 2020 season.