CHICAGO (AP) — At long last, baseball is ready to go after opening day was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. With a myriad of potential problems circling a 60-game schedule, the whole season is truly a day-to-day proposition.
With that in mind, here are a handful of dates to mark on the calendar. Just make sure you use a pencil.
THURSDAY, JULY 23
New York Yankees at Washington Nationals: Baseball begins again with a star-studded matchup in a city that knows a little something about expectations and power. Juan Soto and Washington open their title defense after winning the World Series for the first time in franchise history. Gerrit Cole is hoping to lead New York to its 28th championship after the ace right-hander signed a blockbuster deal with the Yankees in free agency.
THURSDAY, JULY 30
Cleveland Indians at Minnesota Twins: 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, and they should be in the mix once again.
FRIDAY, AUG. 7
Houston Astros at Oakland Athletics: José Altuve and Houston finish their first road trip 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 Aug. 28.
THURSDAY, AUG. 13
St. Louis Cardinals at Chicago White Sox: The Cardinals are in and the Yankees are out for baseball's tribute to “Field of Dreams” at the site in eastern Iowa where the 1989 movie was filmed. The Yankees were scheduled to face the White Sox in the first regular-season game in the Hawkeye State, but the Cardinals got the role after Major League Baseball shortened its schedule because of the pandemic.
MONDAY, AUG. 17
Washington Nationals at Atlanta Braves: Ronald Acuña Jr. and Atlanta host Trea Turner and Washington in their first meeting 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 also play seven times in the first half of September.
FRIDAY, AUG. 21
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 lefty 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.
MONDAY, AUG. 31
Trade deadline: Last day during the season to trade a player. The deadline to be in an organization for postseason eligibility is Sept. 15.
WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 2
Tampa Bay Rays at New York Yankees: The Rays were one of baseball's biggest surprises a year ago, going 96-66 and making it to the AL Division Series before losing to Houston. Now Charlie Morton and company are expected to battle New York for the AL East title. The 10-game season series between the clubs could go a long way toward deciding the division after the Yankees went 12-7 against the Rays in 2019.
SATURDAY, SEPT. 12
Houston Astros at Los Angeles Dodgers: Los Angeles was supposed to face the AL Central in interleague play this year. Then the coronavirus hit and MLB reorganized its schedule to limit travel — setting up Houston's first trip to Dodger Stadium since the Astros' sign-stealing scheme became public knowledge. The Dodgers lost to Houston in seven games in that 2017 World Series, and they weren't shy about expressing their disdain for the Astros after the scandal came out over the winter.
SUNDAY, SEPT. 27
Milwaukee Brewers at St. Louis Cardinals: The last two NL Central champions finish the regular season with a four-game set. Jack Flaherty and Paul Goldschmidt led the way as St. Louis won the division last year for the first time since 2015, finishing two games ahead of Milwaukee. But the Brewers played without Christian Yelich down the stretch after the star outfielder broke his right kneecap.
Los Angeles Angels at Los Angeles Dodgers: The Freeway Series drives into the last weekend of the season. Mike Trout and the Angels are hoping to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2014, and they'll have Joe Maddon in the dugout after he was hired as manager in October. The loaded Dodgers, who acquired Mookie Betts in a Feb. 10 trade with Boston, are aiming for their first World Series championship since 1988.
Jay Cohen can be reached at https://twitter.com/jcohenap
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