FAQ: Yankees vs. Nationals, 7 ET, ESPN

July 23rd, 2020

Baseball is back, and the Nationals and Yankees will ring in the first game of the 2020 Major League season Thursday night at Nationals Park.

Washington will begin its quest to defend its World Series title and become the first team to win back-to-back championships since their Opening Day opponents accomplished the feat from 1998-2000. New York, meanwhile, will try to follow up its 103-win '19 season with a run at its 28th title.

Let's see how these two teams stack up before Max Scherzer and Gerrit Cole take the mound for first pitch.

When is the game and how can I watch it?
First pitch is scheduled for 7:08 p.m. ET on Thursday. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN. Radio broadcasts are available on 106.7 The Fan for the Nationals and WFAN 660/101.9 FM and WADO 1280 for the Yankees.

Lineup for Washington
Washington returned most of its roster from 2019, but there were glaring questions in the batting order and on the field following the departure of third baseman Anthony Rendon in free agency. Carter Kieboom, the Nationals' No. 1 prospect, is expected to man the hot corner and share time there with veteran Asdrúbal Cabrera, especially depending on matchups with the opposing hitters. Trea Turner and Adam Eaton return as a 1-2 punch at the top. Andrew Stevenson replaces Juan Soto, who tested positive for COVID-19 but is asymptomatic, in left field, while Howie Kendrick slides into his cleanup spot.

Lineup for New York
The shutdown allowed the Yankees to get back to full strength -- had the season started as scheduled on March 26, they would have been missing several of their big bats and at least one starting pitcher. Even without DJ LeMahieu tonight, New York's lineup appears to be a juggernaut once more, coming off a season in which it paced the Majors with 942 runs scored while mashing 306 homers -- second only to the Twins (307), and the second-most ever slugged by a big league club.

Starting pitchers
gets amped up for intrasquad scrimmages, and his mindset for starting on Opening Day is on another level of intensity. The right-hander enters his 13th season after posting an 11-7 record with a 2.92 ERA in 2019. Scherzer has faced the Yankees seven times in his career, going 4-3 with a 4.04 ERA over 42 1/3 innings. "I know I actually feel really good physically coming into this," Scherzer said Wednesday. "Even though we only had four Spring Training starts, I feel like I put myself in a really good position to be absolutely ready for Opening Day, with all the things considering. I'm just looking forward to going out there and competing."

Yankees: will return to the site of last year's World Series to make his long-awaited debut in a Yankees uniform, having been wooed away from the Astros by a nine-year, $324 million contract. Cole finished second in last year's American League Cy Young Award voting, posting a 20-5 record with an AL-best 2.50 ERA while leading the Majors in strikeouts (326), ERA+ (185) and strikeouts per nine innings (13.8).

How will the bullpens line up after the starter?
The Nationals are likely to utilize whichever pitcher does not get named the fifth starter as a long reliever. The team could have gaps to fill in the early stages of the season, as Roenis Elías and Wander Suero spent time on the injured list during workouts and their ramping up was delayed. Prospects at the alternate training site could be called upon for innings. At the back end of the 'pen, the Nats added Will Harris to pitch late in games with fellow veterans Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson.

Yankees: With Aroldis Chapman unlikely to be ready after testing positive for the coronavirus, Zack Britton will be elevated into the closer's role. That leaves Chad Green, Tommy Kahnle and Adam Ottavino in line to handle high-leverage situations, while Jonathan Loaisiga could be used in a variety of roles ranging from short relief to multiple-inning stints.

Any injuries of note?
Victor Robles was not cleared to participate in workouts until Saturday, but the energetic center fielder got reps in during exhibition games and expects to be ready for Opening Day.

Yankees: Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka is expected to begin the season on the injured list due to a concussion that he sustained on July 4, when he was hit by a Stanton line drive. Right-hander Luis Cessa has tested negative for the coronavirus and is building his stamina in the bullpen.