Game times were announced for Major League Baseball’s master schedule this week, and now our internal clock is counting down the hours and minutes until the 2020 season can be calibrated more precisely.
Though, as those calibrations confirm, we still have a ways to go before the regular season begins, it’s not too early to circle some important dates on the slate.
We’re (admittedly) not smart enough to know which games will prove to have the most magnitude in terms of postseason seeding, and there are bound to be surprises along the way. But for now, here are 20 games/series in 2020 -- broken into categories -- that catch the eye.
1. Nationals at Mets, March 26
The earliest full-scale Opening Day in history (a 15-game extravaganza) begins with this 1:10 p.m. ET tilt, and the pitching probables are far from official yet. But anybody up for Max Scherzer vs. Jacob deGrom to start the season? Yeah, we thought so. ESPN will broadcast this one.
2. Angels at Astros, March 26
With a 7:10 p.m. start time, the first night game of 2020 is also a nationally televised affair on ESPN, and it is likely to feature Justin Verlander vs. Mike Trout, among so much other star talent on both sides.
3. Angels at Rangers, March 31
A few days into the 2020 season, the Rangers have a home opener in the truest sense of the term. Globe Life Field will be christened when a new-look Texas team welcomes Mike Trout and Co. under its first-of-its-kind transparent roof.
4. Mets vs. Marlins, April 28-30 in Puerto Rico
MLB’s return to Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan pits these National League East rivals against each other. The last time MLB came to the island was an Indians-Twins series in 2018, not long after Hurricane Maria. Now, Puerto Rico is reeling from its strongest earthquake since 1918. This will be a special return for Mets manager Carlos Beltrán and reliever Edwin Díaz as well as Marlins second baseman Isan Díaz.
5. Cubs vs. Cardinals, June 13-14 in London
The Red Sox and Yankees formally introduced MLB to the United Kingdom last summer, and now another time-tested rivalry heads across the pond in the name of increasing the sport’s European footprint. Will there be an explosion of runs at London Stadium like there was last summer?
6. Yankees vs. White Sox, Aug. 13 in Dyersville, Iowa
It will be built, and people will come to “MLB at Field of Dreams.” Set in a temporary 8,000-seat facility constructed adjacent to the famous movie site, this unique event will be one of the toughest tickets in memory. Or you can just watch the game on FOX.
7. Red Sox vs. Orioles, Aug. 23 in Williamsport, Pa.
The fourth annual installment of the MLB Little League Classic will be the first to feature American League clubs. It’s always a treat to see a crowd full of kids at this Sunday night game on ESPN, after the big leaguers check out their Little League World Series games at Howard J. Lamade Stadium.
8. Phillies at Mets, March 30-April 1
Fresh off signing his five-year, $118 million deal with the rival Phils, Zack Wheeler makes his first of many returns to Queens.
9. D-backs at Giants, April 6-9
Though he might face the Giants a week earlier in Arizona, Madison Bumgarner's first return to San Francisco after leaving as a free agent is sure to be a rousing one.
10. Nationals at Angels, May 11-13
He won’t make a regular-season visit to Washington this year, but it just so happens the Interleague schedule calls for Anthony Rendon to face the Nats in his first year in Anaheim.
11. Yankees at Astros, May 15-17
If Gerrit Cole is kept in a five-day rotation from Opening Day onward, he’ll be lined up to pitch the opener of this series. Here’s hoping it works out for the $324 million man to pitch one of these games… and preferably opposite Justin Verlander after the two had a nip-and-tuck Cy Young Award battle as 2019 teammates.
12. Reds at Indians, May 19-20
Trevor Bauer's last act as a member of the Indians was his memorable heave of the ball over the center-field wall after a frustrating outing. He was traded to the Reds a few days later, and this will be his first return to Cleveland (the two clubs face each other in Cincinnati on July 7-8).
13. White Sox at Astros, June 12-14
Dallas Keuchel was a Cy Young Award winner and World Series champion with the Astros, and his public comments in the wake of the 2017 non-waiver Trade Deadline helped inspire Houston to make the epic Justin Verlander acquisition a month later. Back in the AL with the White Sox, this will be Keuchel’s first return to Houston.
14. Padres at Royals, July 24-26
Eric Hosmer was rightly beloved in Kansas City as a first-round Draft pick who helped lead the Royals to glory for the first time in a generation. This will be his first return to Kauffman Stadium. Maybe he can take everybody out for a cocktail afterward.
NO CATEGORY, JUST COOL
15. Red Sox at Cubs, June 19-21
The Red Sox make their first trip to Wrigley Field since 2012, likely inspiring another round of Fenway vs. Wrigley debates (Spoiler: They’re both awesome).
16. Dodgers at Angels, July 10-11
This will mark the first time Interleague rivals meet in the same market of the All-Star Game directly in advance of the Midsummer Classic, which will take place on July 14 at Dodger Stadium.
17. Angels at Phillies, July 17-19
OK, so Bryce Harper vs. Mike Trout is not the Thing it was when they first faced each other in 2014, but whatever. We still think it’s fun.
18. Brewers at Dodgers, July 20-22
A year after Cody Bellinger and Christian Yelich had a ridiculously fun NL MVP Award battle (until Yelich got hurt in September), it’s the triumphant return of the Belli vs. Yeli Show (to be repeated in the first weekend of September, in Milwaukee).
WORLD SERIES REMATCH
19. Astros at Nationals, July 3-5
If you want fireworks on your Independence Day weekend, you could do worse than a rematch of a 2019 World Series that went seven games. You won’t see Howie Kendrick clang one off the foul pole against Will Harris (because they’re teammates now), but you should see an entertaining Interleague set between postseason foes and Spring Training neighbors.
WORLD SERIES PREVIEW?
20. Astros at Braves, Sept. 25-27
This will be the only Interleague series in the final weekend of the regular season (and once again this year, every game on the final day of the schedule will begin within a few minutes of each other in the 3 p.m. ET hour). Clearly, there’s no telling where things will stand by that point, and to seriously call this a World Series preview would be obnoxiously premature. But they’re both good teams, so… maybe?
Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.