Must-see 2020 games
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Must-see games on the 2020 MLB regular season schedule

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Major League Baseball revealed the 2020 regular season schedule on Monday evening. Along with a likely duel between Gerrit Cole and Max Scherzer on Opening Day, July 23, in the nation’s capital, there are a number of interesting games to mark on your planner. Let’s start with Opening Day.

July 23: Yankees-Nationals

If baseball is going to return, it may as well return in a big way. Gerrit Cole, fresh off a runner-up finish in AL Cy Young Award balloting last season, signed a nine-year, $324 million contract with the Yankees in December. In 2019, Cole went 20-5 with an AL-best 2.50 ERA and a major league-high 326 strikeouts. He’ll finally be able to pitch a meaningful game in a Yankees uniform for the first time. Cole will do so against Scherzer, a three-time Cy Young Award winner who has not showed any signs of slowing down. Last year, Scherzer went 11-7 with a 2.92 ERA and 243 strikeouts over 172 1/3 innings. The Nationals will finally start their defense of their 2019 championship.

July 24: Rockies-Rangers

Globe Life Field will make its debut as the Rangers host the Rockies to kick off the 2020 season. The Rangers’ new digs was the subject of some brutal roasting not too long ago, so hopefully the inside of the stadium makes a much better impression than the outside. One Twitter user said, “The new Texas Ranger stadium has all the charm of the world’s largest Home Depot.” Another said, “The Rangers wanted to be the Astros so bad they turned their stadium into a trash can.”

The Rangers tabbed Lance Lynn to start on Opening Day. He will likely square off against Rockies right-hander German Márquez.

July 24: Angels-Athletics

Anthony Rendon will make his regular season Angels debut after inking a seven-year, $245 million contract in December. Rendon, who has averaged about 5.5 Wins Above Replacement over the last four seasons according to Baseball Reference, will pair up with Andrelton Simmons at shortstop to create one of the more electric left sides of the infield across the sport. Last year, Rendon led the majors with 126 RBI and the National League with 44 doubles. He also hit .319 with 34 homers and a 1.010 OPS. Not too shabby.

July 26: Angels-Athletics

Nothing is set in stone yet, but Shohei Ohtani could potentially start for the Angels against the Athletics on the first Sunday of the regular season. Ohtani hasn’t pitched since 2018, the year he underwent Tommy John surgery. Despite a shortened season, he still won the 2018 AL Rookie of the Year Award as an electric two-way player, batting .285 with 22 home runs, 61 RBI, 59 runs scored, and 10 stolen bases in 367 plate appearances. On the mound, Ohtani went 4-2 with a 3.31 ERA, 63 strikeouts, and 22 walks over 51 2/3 innings.

August 11-12: Cubs-Indians

A rematch of the 2016 World Series will take place in Cleveland in mid-August. It’s not the first time they’ve matched up since then, as they did battle in two two-game series in 2018. The two clubs split the first series in Cleveland and the Indians swept the other one in Chicago. Due to schedule restrictions limiting teams to their divisional and geographical interleague opponents, this and Astros-Dodgers are the only possible World Series rematches since 2011.

Of course, it won’t be quite the same. Many of the players on the 2016 rosters have moved on. The Indians have remained competitive, winning 102 games in ’17, and 90-plus games each of the past two seasons. However, the Cubs have fallen off, dropping from 92 and 95 wins in ’17 and ’18 to 84 last year.

August 13: White Sox-Cardinals

The “Field of Dreams” game was originally supposed to feature the Yankees against the White Sox on August 13. The Cardinals have replaced them due to MLB’s divisional scheduling for the makeshift 2020 season.

August 21-23: Diamondbacks-Giants

Longtime Giants lefty Madison Bumgarner signed a five-year, $85 million contract with the Diamondbacks in December. If the schedule lines up correctly, he could pitch against his old team in San Francisco for the first time during the three-game series between the two teams August 21-23. Bumgarner, a prolific postseason pitcher, led the Giants to three championships in 2010, ’12, and ’14.

September 12-13: Astros-Dodgers

Though there likely won’t be any fans in attendance, the Astros will return to the scene of the crime in mid-September. Though it feels like a decade ago, the Astros were sanctioned by MLB for an elaborate cheating scheme used during the 2017 season, which ended with them defeating the Dodgers in the World Series in seven games. GM Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch were suspended one year, the Astros were fined $5 million, and the club lost its first and second round draft picks in both 2020 and ’21. Due the pandemic, MLB has forbidden teams from instigating fights. Some might argue the Astros got a bit lucky, since neither the Dodgers nor the fans are likely to extend the punishment this year.

The Astros and Dodgers will also meet in Houston July 28-29, but it’s not quite the same as the Astros showing up in L.A.

Notable Rivalries

The Yankees and Red Sox meet up three times: July 31-August 2 in the Bronx, August 14-17 in the Bronx again, and September 18-20 in Boston.

The Cubs face the Cardinals in St. Louis August 7-9, in Chicago August 17-19, and again in Chicago September 4-7.

Along with the four-game series to open the season in L.A., the Dodgers and Giants will do battle August 7-9 in L.A. and August 25-27 in San Francisco. They do not play each other at all in September.

Blue Jays clinch 1st playoff spot since 2016, beat Yanks 4-1

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) Barred from playing in their own ballpark this year because of COVID-19, the vagabond Toronto Blue Jays have found a home in the playoffs.

The slumping New York Yankees, meanwhile, look likely to play on the road in the postseason, where they’ve struggled all year.

Hyun Jin Ryu pitched seven shutout innings and the Blue Jays clinched their first postseason spot since 2016, beating the Yankees 4-1 Thursday night and further damaging New York’s chances of hosting a first-round series.

New York lost for the fourth time in five games following a 10-game winning stretch and remained two games behind the slumping White Sox for the fourth seed. Chicago lost 5-4 at Cleveland, its fifth straight defeat.

“We’ve got to get it rolling again, obviously, if we’re going to get to where we want to go,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “I’m confident we can do it.

New York went 21-7 at home this season but was 11-18 on the road. Boone said he’s not concerned about that split even as a potential road playoff series looms next week.

“We’ve got to get ourselves in order and start playing really good baseball if we’re going to give ourselves a chance,” Boone said.

Toronto secured at least an AL wild-card spot and ensured its eighth trip overall to the postseason. The Blue Jays had endured three losing campaigns since their previous playoff trip, going 67-95 last season.

“I’m just so proud of my club and everything we’ve gone through all year,” second-year manager Charlie Montoyo said.

Canada’s federal government refused to allow games at Toronto’s Rogers Centre this season, citing the closed Canada-U.S. border and the travel risk associated with the pandemic. Stuck on the road to start the season, the Blue Jays eventually ended up at their Triple-A ballpark, Sahlen Field in Buffalo, but didn’t gripe about their fate.

“They never complained,” Montoyo said. “They had their mind set on getting to this moment right now.”

Blue Jays players embraced after Rafael Dolis struck out Aaron Hicks to end it, donning blue T-shirts that said “Respect Toronto.”

“This is something we want to make an every year thing,” infielder Cavan Biggio said. “For us, we’re happy, we’re excited we’re able to put ourselves in this position, but this is only the start of hopefully something special for a long time.”

The Blue Jays trail the Yankees by two games for second place in the AL East. Both teams have three games remaining. Toronto hosts Baltimore in Buffalo this weekend while the Yankees host the Marlins.

New York failed to hit a homer for the fourth straight game, matching its longest streak since June 2016. It’s the first time the Yankees have failed to homer in a four-game series since doing so at Texas in July 2013.

“I’m concerned with the way we’ve played recently,” outfielder Brett Gardner said. “Any time you’re not playing your best baseball and the postseason is right around the corner, something needs to be corrected rather quickly.”

New York loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth, but pinch-hitter Gary Sanchez flied out to deep center, where Randal Grichuk made a leaping catch at the wall.

“It’s good to see him get a really good swing off in a big spot,” Boone said of Sanchez. “Just unfortunately, that short.”

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. homered for Toronto, his eighth.

Ryu (5-2) scattered five hits, walked two and struck out four. Luke Voit and Hicks hit back-to-back singles to begin the sixth but Ryu struck out Giancarlo Stanton, got Gleyber Torres to fly out, and retired Gio Urshela on a groundball.

“He’s an ace and he did what an ace does,” Montoyo said.

The left-hander lowered his ERA from 3.00 to 2.69.

Dolis got four outs for his fifth save in six chances.

Guerrero opened the scoring with a solo homer off left-hander Jordan Montgomery (2-3) in the second.

The Blue Jays extended their lead when Biggio and Bo Bichette hit back-to-back, two-out doubles in the third.

Toronto made it 4-0 in the sixth. Grichuk chased Montgomery with a single and Guerrero singled off Adam Ottavino before rookie Alejandro Kirk hit a two-out, two-run double.

Montgomery lost for the first time in four starts. He allowed three runs and six hits in 5 1/3 innings.

The Blue Jays finished 5-5 in their 10-game regular season series against the Yankees.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Blue Jays: RHP Nate Pearson (elbow) was activated off the injured list and RHP Wilmer Font was designated for assignment. . RHP Jordan Romano (strained right middle finger) will throw a second bullpen session Friday.

Yankees: Aaron Judge came on as a pinch-hitter but is expected to start all three remaining regular season games, Boone said.

SHARED DUTY

Boone said he expects to use both Sanchez and Kyle Higashioka at catcher in the postseason. Higashioka has hit well while working with ace Gerrit Cole, while Sanchez has struggled with both offense and his defense down the stretch.

SEVEN UP

Ryu became the first Blue Jays starting pitcher since Aug. 22, 2019, to pitch into the seventh. It had been an MLB-record 88 games since RHP Jacob Waguespack pitched into the seventh at Dodger Stadium last year.

UP NEXT

Yankees: LHP J.A. Happ (2-2, 3.25) starts Friday as New York returns home to begin a three-game series against Miami. RHP Sandy Alcantara (3-2, 3.12) starts for the Marlins.

Blue Jays: RHP Taijuan Walker (4-3, 2.86) starts Friday in the opener of a three-game series against Baltimore. The Orioles have not named a starter.