usatsi-141635431.jpg
USATSI

At long last, the 2020 MLB season is here. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic forced MLB to shorten the season to 60 games. There will also be a universal DH and a runner placed at second base to begin extra innings to speed things along. Embrace this weird. This season will be full of it.

The interleague action gets started early in 2020 as the Cincinnati Reds of the NL Central host the Detroit Tigers of the AL Central:

  • Date: Friday, July 24
  • Time: 6:10 p.m. ET
  • Venue: Great American Ballpark -- Cincinnati, Ohio
  • TV: Fox Sports Detroit, Fox Sports Ohio
  • Stream: MLB.tv

Pitching matchup: Matthew Boyd vs. Sonny Gray

The lefty Boyd, age 29, has excellent stuff and enjoyed a tremendous start to the 2019 season. However, his results degraded badly down the stretch, and the Tigers will be looking for more consistency out of him in 2020. He's a potential trade candidate, given that Detroit almost certainly won't compete. 

As for Gray, the veteran right-hander enjoyed an excellent renaissance season in Cincy last year. Reunited with his college pitching coach, Gray tweaked his approach and pitch mix and wound up registering a 2.75 ERA and 3.42 FIP across 31 starts. For his troubles, he wound up seventh in the NL Cy Young balloting and posted a career-best WAR of 5.6. 

Storyline to watch: The Reds are all-in

The Reds over the last two offseasons have worked hard to position themselves as contenders in the NL Central -- a division crowded with likely contenders. That in some ways distinguishes them from the remainder of the division. New to the roster for 2020 is a quartet of likely core contributors: outfielder Nick Castellanos, infielder Mike Moustakas, outfielder Shogo Akiyama, and lefty starter Wade Miley. They're added to an already competitive-grade roster. Yes, the Cardinals, Cubs, and Brewers also profile as relevant, but none of those teams figures to be measurably better than Cincy. The schedule may provide a slight edge to the Reds, and that's largely because they get to face the Tigers six times. To say the least, the Reds need to take advantage of those opportunities. 

Prediction!

We'll go with the demonstrably better team, the host Reds. Gray twirls five shutout innings against an uninspiring Tigers lineup, and Nick Senzel and Eugenio Suarez each homer.