CHICAGO (AP) — The Washington Nationals defend their first championship. The Houston Astros take on, well, the world. Major league baseball comes to Iowa — and returns to London.
Here are a handful of dates to mark on the calendar:
THURSDAY, MARCH 26
St. Louis Cardinals at Cincinnati Reds: Nick Castellanos brings his “Every day is opening day” mantra to Cincinnati, where opening day is pretty much a city-wide holiday. The quirky outfielder signed a $64 million, four-year contract with Cincinnati in January, a key part of an active offseason for the refurbished Reds. The Cardinals, led by Jack Flaherty and Paul Goldschmidt, are going for their second straight NL Central title.
MONDAY, MARCH 30
Houston Astros at Oakland Athletics: José Altuve and Houston begin their first road trip of the season in Oakland, home of former teammate Mike Fiers. But this isn't going to be one of those warm reunions. In an interview with The Athletic for a story published in November, Fiers blew the whistle on Houston's sign-stealing program in its run to the 2017 World Series title, touching off a scandal that could shadow the Astros for years to come. Fiers and the A's visit Houston for the first time on April 24.
THURSDAY, APRIL 2
New York Mets at Washington Nationals: Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals celebrate their 2019 title once again before hosting Pete Alonso and the Mets for their home opener. Strasburg was the World Series MVP last fall when Washington beat Houston in seven games. The ace right-hander then re-signed with the Nationals, but star third baseman Anthony Rendon left in free agency. Alonso is hoping to lead New York into the playoffs after bashing 53 homers as a rookie last year.
MONDAY, APRIL 6
Arizona Diamondbacks at San Francisco Giants: Madison Bumgarner returns to San Francisco after signing an $85 million, five-year contract with Arizona in December. The ace left-hander spent his first 11 seasons with the Giants, winning the World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014. The new-look Diamondbacks also acquired Starling Marté in a trade with Pittsburgh in January.
FRIDAY, MAY 15
New York Yankees at Houston Astros: Aaron Judge leads New York into Houston for the first time since the Astros' sign-stealing scheme came to light over the winter. The Yankees lost to the Astros in the AL Championship Series in 2017 and 2019, and Judge and company lobbed some sharp criticism in Houston's direction in the wake of the scandal. It's also Gerrit Cole's first game in Houston since the ace right-hander signed a $324 million, nine-year contract with the Yankees in December, leaving the Astros after two successful seasons.
SATURDAY, JUNE 13
Chicago Cubs at St. Louis Cardinals: Another one of baseball's best rivalries travels to London when Anthony Rizzo and the Cubs take on Goldschmidt and the Cardinals. The Yankees swept a two-game series against the Red Sox at Olympic Stadium last summer. Chicago is looking to bounce back this year after missing the playoffs for the first time since 2014.
FRIDAY, JUNE 19
Atlanta Braves at Washington Nationals: Ronald Acuña Jr. and Atlanta visit Washington for the first time since the Nationals won it all. The Braves topped the NL East last season for the second straight year — and flopped in the playoffs once again. While Atlanta was eliminated by St. Louis in the NL Division Series, Washington took home the championship. The division rivals play 19 more times in 2020, including seven games in September.
TUESDAY, JULY 14
All-Star Game: Dodger Stadium hosts the Midsummer Classic for the second time. Ken Griffey Sr. homered off Tommy John to help the National League beat the AL 4-2 at the Dodgers' picturesque ballpark in 1980.
SUNDAY, JULY 26
Hall of Fame: Derek Jeter, Larry Walker, Ted Simmons and former players’ association head Marvin Miller are inducted into Cooperstown.
FRIDAY, JULY 31
Trade deadline: Last day during the season to trade a player.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 13
New York Yankees at Chicago White Sox: Baseball pays tribute to “Field of Dreams” when the Yankees take on the White Sox at the site in eastern Iowa where the 1989 movie was filmed. It's the first major league game to be played in the Hawkeye State.
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 10
Minnesota Twins at Cleveland Indians: The Twins clubbed a major league-record 307 homers on their way to the AL Central title last year — and then added slugger Josh Donaldson in free agency. Cleveland finished second in the division with 93 wins, but its biggest offseason move might have been the one it didn't make — holding on to Francisco Lindor. The Indians kept their All-Star shortstop in hopes of making another playoff run, but he could be long gone by September if they fall off the pace.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 27
Los Angeles Dodgers at San Diego Padres: Aiming for its first World Series championship since 1988, Los Angeles finishes the season with a three-game set against Manny Machado and San Diego. The Dodgers bolstered their lineup by acquiring Mookie Betts in a Feb. 10 trade with Boston, putting the 2018 AL MVP in the same outfield as reigning NL MVP Cody Bellinger. Machado is heading into his second season with the Padres, but their biggest key could be the health of shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr.
Jay Cohen can be reached at https://twitter.com/jcohenap
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