The coronavirus postponed the start of the baseball season and shut down nearly everything else, but now Major League Baseball is back for a 60-game sprint of a season. MLB also announced a newly expanded postseason -- if it can find a way to complete the regular season first.
Many teams have seen their games postponed due to COVID-19 outbreaks on the Miami Marlins and the St. Louis Cardinals. It's still unclear when or how all those games will be made up, but MLB is revising its scheduling to accommodate the situation, including playing seven-inning doubleheaders.
The schedule is in flux for multiple teams, but the majority of games remain on track. You can't head to the ballpark and attend a game in person, but there are plenty of ways to watch on TV. Here's how you can watch the shortened 2020 season without cable.
Read more: Major League Soccer is back: How to watch MLS tournament games today without cable
What games are on TV?
On Thursday, Aug. 6, your local Fox station will show either the Houston Astros vs. the Arizona Diamondbacks or the Chicago Cubs vs. the Kansas City Royals. Both games are set for 7:07 p.m. ET (4:07 p.m. PT) so which game you get will depend on where you live.
Those with ESPN Plus will be able to catch the San Francisco Giants vs. the Colorado Rockies at 3:10 p.m. ET (12:10 p.m. PT), while those with the MLB app will be able to watch Texas Rangers take on the Oakland Athletics at 3:40 p.m. ET (12:40 p.m. PT) in MLB.TV's free game of the day.
Other teams around the league will play on regional sports networks.
How can I watch the 2020 MLB season on TV without cable?
The 2020 season may be drastically different than the usual six-month, 162-game campaign of past years, but the ways to watch regular-season baseball has not changed. The national networks that carry MLB games in normal seasons -- Fox, Fox Sports 1, TBS, MLB Network and ESPN -- are going to be broadcasting games in 2020.
You'll be able to watch on your local regional sports networks such as local Fox Sports channels, the YES Network (New York Yankees), NESN (Boston Red Sox) or SportsNet LA (Los Angeles Dodgers).
For cable TV cord cutters, many of the national channels are offered on five of the major live TV streaming services. You'll want to check with each service to see if your regional sports network is offered.
To get all the national baseball channels you'll need Sling's Blue/Orange package that runs $45 a month, plus the Sports Extra add-on for an additional $10 per month to get MLB Network. Read our Sling TV review.
YouTube TV costs $65 a month and includes all the major national baseball channels. Depending on your team and area, you may also have your regional sports network. Read our YouTube TV review.
FuboTV includes Fox, ESPN, FS1 and TBS in its $60-per-month Standard plan as well as some local regional sports networks, though those looking for MLB Network will need to look elsewhere. Note: ESPN is not currently offered but will be available at some point this summer, FuboTV says. Read our FuboTV review.
AT&T TV Now's basic $55-a-month Plus package includes ESPN, Fox, FS1 and TBS, but you'll need to step up to the $80-per-month Max package for regional sports channels and potentially the $110-per-month Choice package if you also want MLB Network. Read our AT&T TV Now review.
Hulu with Live TV costs $55 a month and includes most major national baseball channels, including ESPN, Fox and TBS. While some areas may be able to also get regional sports networks, the service does not have MLB Network. Read our Hulu with Live TV review.
In addition to the services above there's MLB.TV, the MLB's paid streaming service. It will be available to stream out-of-market games with the league charging $60 for the entire, shortened season.
T-Mobile and Sprint users will be able to get a free, season-long subscription to MLB.TV beginning on July 21 as part of the T-Mobile Tuesdays perks program. Those looking to take advantage of the offer have until next Tuesday, Aug. 4 at 1:59 a.m. PT (4:59 a.m. ET) to sign up.
Where will games be played?
Regular season games are set to take place in each of the 30 teams' respective home cities, with the exception of the Toronto Blue Jays, the only MLB team based outside of the US.
On July 18, the Blue Jays announced they would not be playing home games in Canada as planned after the Canadian government refused to allow MLB teams to travel into the country over COVID concerns. After days of uncertainty, the team announced it was heading to Buffalo, New York where the Blue Jays' Triple-A club plays.
All baseball games, regardless of city, are set to be played without fans in attendance.
How is the schedule different this year?
To keep travel to a minimum, teams will play those in their nearest geographical areas, so expect mainly in-division play with interleague limited to just those in the opposite league's division (AL East versus NL East, AL Central versus NL Central, AL West versus NL West).
So the Nationals, as CBS Sports notes in its example, will only play against rival NL East teams with interleague games coming against AL East teams. This means we won't see the beleaguered Houston Astros visiting the Yankees until the postseason, potentially, but those looking for the garbage-can-beating 'Stros to get some comeuppance can look forward to their games against the Dodgers in a rematch of the 2017 World Series. The first matchup between the two teams will be in Houston on July 28 and 29.
Are there changes to extra innings?
In a bid to ensure games don't go on for too long, extra-inning play will start with a runner on second for the batting team, according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale. This would continue every half-inning until there is a winner.
Is there a DH in the NL?
The pitcher's spot in the batting order will become a designated hitter, with MLB adopting a universal DH for the 2020 season.
What about expanded playoffs?
More than half the teams will play in October this year. On the eve of the season, MLB and the Players Association agreed on expanding the playoff field from 10 teams to 16. All six division winners and all six division runner-ups will make the playoffs in addition to two wild card teams in each league.
Who's not playing?
A number of players have already said they won't play in the shortened season. Here are some of the current players who have announced that they will be sitting out:
- Mike Leake (Arizona Diamondbacks)
- Joe Ross (Washington Nationals)
- Ian Desmond (Colorado Rockies)
- Ryan Zimmerman (Washington Nationals)
- David Price (Los Angeles Dodgers)
- Welington Castillo (Washington Nationals)
- Felix Hernandez (Atlanta Braves)
- Buster Posey (San Francisco Giants)
- Michael Kopech (Chicago White Sox)
- Héctor Noesí (Pittsburgh Pirates)
- Jordan Hicks (St. Louis Cardinals)
- Lorenzo Cain (Milwaukee Brewers)
- Yoenis Cespedes (New York Mets)
Twenty-one-year-old Nationals star Juan Soto missed the opening weekend after testing positive for COVID-19, but has been cleared to play following negative tests and a 10-day quarantine.
Veteran Nick Markakis of the Atlanta Braves originally decided to opt out, but on July 29 announced he would return to play for the remainder of the 2020 season.
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