July 23, 4:08 p.m. (PT): The New York Yankees @ The Washington Nationals
The incumbent World Series Champions will host the first game of a shortened 2020 regular season at Nationals Park versus The New York Yankees with Dr. Anthony Fauci throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. For the Nationals, seven-time All-Star and three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer will take the hill as the Yankees ship out Gerrit Cole, who will be making his Yankees debut after signing a record-breaking nine-year, $324 million deal.
This game will be decided by pitching as two true aces taking the mound. Cole, who finished second in the 2019 AL Cy Young award race, led the MLB in strikeouts (326) and strikeouts per 9 innings (13.8). Over 212.1 innings pitched, Cole went 20-5 with a 2.50 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, and finished with a 7.4 WAR.
Scherzer, who finished third in the 2019 NL Cy Young award race, led the MLB in FIP (2.45) and SO/BB (7.4) while making his seventh consecutive All-Star appearance. Scherzer failed to pitch 200-plus innings for the first time since 2013, but his strikeout per 9 innings (12.69) was a new career-high. Over 27 games, Scherzer went 11-7 with a 2.92 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and finished with a 6.5 WAR.
The Yankees feature one of the scariest, right-handed heavy lineups in all of baseball that includes OF Aaron Judge, OF/DH Giancarlo Stanton, INF DJ LeMahieu, and 2B/SS Gleyber Torres. Although OF Aaron Judge has not faced Scherzer in a regular-season game, he hit a home run against him during the 2018 All-Star game.
Over Stanton’s career, he is 4-18 (.222 avg.) against Scherzer with two home runs, five RBIs, and nine strikeouts. LeMahieu, Torres, C Gary Sánchez, and several others join Judge as players that have not faced Scherzer in the regular season. OF Bret Gardner, the longest-tenured Yankee player, has a career .188/.316/.188 slash line with a .503 OPS and five strikeouts against Scherzer.
OF Juan Soto recently matched up against Cole during the 2019 World Series when Cole was pitching for the Houston Astros in Games 1 and 5. The Nationals beat Cole in Game 1 after tagging him for five runs, three of which were courtesy of Soto from a solo home run and a two-run double. Game 5 turned out better for Cole, as he carried the Astros to a 7-1 win over the Nationals. Once a promising prospect, SS Trea Turner’s injuries have been a major hurdle throughout his career. Since making his debut in 2015, Turner has made three separate trips to the IL for a hamstring injury, a broken right index finger, and a right wrist fracture. In 2018, Turner played a full 162-game season and was on track to tackle that feat in back-to-back years if he hadn’t broken his finger. As an elite speed threat, Turner has stolen 30-plus bases in each season since 2016, even while averaging only 114 games per season.
July 23, 7:08 p.m. (PT): The San Francisco Giants @ The Los Angeles Dodgers
Although the Dodgers and Giants match up won’t feature a thrilling pitching duel like the Yankees and Nationals, a classic West Coast rivalry is always a fun game to watch, even if the Dodgers are the clear favorites to win.
The Giants have two-time All-Star and 2015 World Series champion Johnny Cueto scheduled to face off against three-time Cy Young award winner, eight-time All-Star, and 2014 NL MVP Clayton Kershaw. At the conclusion of the 2015 season, the Giants splurged on Cueto by signing him to a 6-year, $130 million deal that has completely backfired. Since 2016, Cueto has made five separate trips to the Injured List, two of which required a transfer to the 60-day IL. Over the past two seasons, Cueto has only pitched 69 innings, going 4-4 with a 4.15 ERA.
There have been obvious signs of regression since Kershaw won the pitching Triple Crown in 2011 and the NL MVP in 2014, but he should still be considered a Top 15 starter. Kershaw saw his ERA bloat to 3.03 in 2019, the first time he finished a season with an ERA over 3.00 since his rookie campaign in 2008. The biggest struggle for Kershaw over the past three seasons has been the home run ball — he allowed 28 home runs in 2019, the most of his career, as compared to only eight in 2016.
Even a regressing Kershaw should still be considered the No. 1, arguably the No. 2 starter with Walker Buehler in the mix. But with an offense that features two former MVPs, run production shouldn’t be much of an issue for the Dodgers. Before adding OF Mookie Betts, the Dodgers were the NL leaders in a majority of offensive team categories in 2019. As a team, the Dodgers ranked first in the NL in home runs (279), slugging percentage (.472), OPS (.810), and total bases (2,593). They were also seventh in hits (1,414) and fifth in batting average (.257).
My name is Sebastian and I am a senior at Northern Arizona University. I am a double major in journalism and communication, along with a minor in German. I have been in various editorial positions and have contributed articles to The Lumberjack, NAU's student-run newspaper.