MLB Opening Day Preview: Yankees vs. Nationals

It’s finally here! Nearly four months after it was supposed to start, MLB Opening Day is upon us, starting with a showdown between the Washington Nationals, last year’s champions, and the New York Yankees, who are favored by many to win the 2020 World Series. Despite being on the road, the Yankees are favored to win with a -140 moneyline, while the Nats have a moneyline of +120.

While the Nationals are the defending champions, there isn’t a lot of optimism about a repeat outside of the nation’s capital. After losing third baseman Anthony Rendon during the offseason, there is even more pressure on Washington’s pitching staff heading into the season. Of course, there is no denying that the Nationals have an abundance of talent on the mound.

Meanwhile, expectations are sky-high for the Bronx Bombers. Amidst a rash of injuries in 2019, the Yankees still won the AL East before falling short in the ALCS. If fully healthy this year, the Yankees are poised to be one of MLB’s best teams and win their first championship since 2009.

The Debut

Gerrit Cole will finally make his long-awaited Yankees debut on Thursday. Coming off a season in which he went 20-5 and posted a 2.50 ERA, many believe Cole is the best pitcher in baseball right now.

Of course, that reputation, not to mention a massive contract with the Yankees, places a lot of pressure on his shoulders. That pressure only grows when this might be the first of only 12 starts he’ll make this year.

Oddly enough, Cole’s last two starts also came against the Nationals during last year’s World Series. He pitched 14 innings over those two games, giving up six runs, including three home runs while striking out 15. Most of Washington’s hitters will be familiar with Cole, although few will be excited about having to start the season against the best pitcher in baseball.

Mad Max

The Nationals will counter Cole with veteran ace Max Scherzer. The longtime ace is getting the nod on opening day over World Series MVP Stephan Strasburg.

There is no question that Scherzer still ranks as one of the best pitchers in baseball. However, it’s worth noting that Scherzer got beat up a little in an exhibition game over the weekend, giving up seven runs against the Phillies and failing to complete five innings.

Granted, Scherzer’s rough start in an exhibition game should be taken with a grain of salt. That being said, he’ll be facing one of the best lineups in the game. Scherzer has limited experience facing most of New York’s hitters. If he’s not on top of his game, the Yankees have enough quality hitters to give him some trouble.

Just a Little More

From top to bottom, the Yankees are just a little better than the Nationals, at least on paper. Cole is a little more likely to pitch a gem than Scherzer. The Yankees have a bullpen that’s a little better than the Washington bullpen.

The Yankees also have a lineup that’s deeper and more potent than the Nationals. In a season that will be difficult to predict, bet on the Yankees beating the Nationals on opening day.

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