Unders still in play for MLB

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We finally made it.

When the Washington Nationals host the New York Yankees Thursday evening, this 2020 season opener will have an extra special flavor to it. One of the sweetest kind that will see the first of the four major American professional sports to come off the sidelines for the first time in more than four months.

And it will be in high-profile fashion, too. The Nats are your reigning world champions after one of the more improbable Octobers in recent memory. The Yanks are the Yanks, a tradition-laden franchise that is coming off some rare misfortunes over the past few years at the hands of an opponent who cheated.

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It’s only right that a matchup of this magnitude kick things off. Let’s try to figure out how the first action of the season will play out in this new world.

Thursday

Gerrit Cole vs. Max Scherzer: There couldn’t have been a more perfect pitching matchup drawn up to ring in Major League Baseball’s official return. For the first game, it will be arguable the best pitchers in each league squaring off.

Cole enjoyed a monstrously great campaign last year, nearly winning AL Cy Young honors (many would argue he deserved it over Justin Verlander). Scherzer, meanwhile, was dominant in his own right, etching his fifth-straight season with a sub-3.00 ERA.

Of course, it’s also important to note that this will be the first game in an NL Park implementing a universal designated hitter. Even so, both pitchers shouldn’t be fazed too much. Look for the battle-tested starters to be in form out of the gate. UNDER

Saturday

James Paxton vs. Stephen Strasburg: Paxton was one of the main beneficiaries of baseball’s lengthy delay, as the inactivity allowed Big Maple to heal from injury and be ready from the start. As proven again last year, when Paxton is healthy and on his game, he’s one of the most dominant starters in the league. He registered 11.1 K/9 last year — his third straight campaign in double digits — and that mark ranked him in the Top-10.

Then there’s the World Series MVP, Strasburg, who also knows a little something about strikeouts. After all, the 32-year-old has recorded more than 10 K/9 in each of the last six seasons. Overpowering starters can be extra valuable in these contests from NL venues with inflated totals; no pitcher at the end of the lineup won’t stop these two Cy Young contenders from doing their thing. UNDER

Sunday

J.A. Happ vs. Patrick Corbin: Masahiro Tanaka was originally slated for this one, but a line drive he took to the noggin back in the beginning of the month means he won’t be ready for opening weekend. Enter Happ, who is following up a rough first full rodeo with the Bombers, but one that saw him end the campaign strong.

He’ll oppose Corbin, Washington‘s prized addition to the rotation from a year ago. The former Arizona Diamondback did his part, giving his new club 33 starts, more than 200 innings and a pristine 14-7 record. However, this could be a tough assignment for the starters, having to face a pair of lineups that hit lefties well. In fact, the Nationals and Yankees were two of seven teams to hit higher than .270 against southpaws in 2019. OVER

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