Update, Aug. 6: The Phillies will end up playing six doubleheaders this season, accounting for 20% of their games.
We've already seen several on-the-fly decisions and rule changes from MLB in 2020 and the latest pertains to doubleheaders. This season, doubleheaders will be seven-inning games, after the league reached an agreement Thursday with the players' association, according to ESPN.
This will impact the Phillies as much as any team (perhaps other than the Marlins) because the Phillies have had seven games postponed this week. The Phils could make up their four-game home-and-home series with the Yankees this upcoming Monday-Thursday (Aug. 3-6), but despite Aaron Boone's comments earlier in the week, MLB's official schedule has not yet been updated to reflect that change. The truth is the league probably doesn't know yet and is hoping to continue to see negative coronavirus tests from Phillies players before making it official.
The Phillies were supposed to be off Monday and then in Miami Tuesday through Thursday. That series in Miami will not happen. The Marlins are, after all, still quarantined in Philadelphia. So the schedule would allow for the Phillies to face the Yankees, so long as both teams and the league feel comfortable with their containment of COVID-19. Again Friday, the Phillies announced no players had tested positive the previous day.
But what about the Blue Jays series that was postponed this weekend? The Phillies face the Blue Jays in a second series Sept. 18-20 and it is possible (or likely) that all three games become doubleheaders. It would force the Phillies to play 12 games in nine days in the final two weeks of their season, a major test to their thin pitching staff.
But the Phillies won't be the only team eventually playing doubleheaders. Friday night, for example, one-third of the National League had its games postponed. The Brewers and Cardinals were postponed after two Cardinals players reportedly tested positive. The Nationals and Marlins were postponed because the Marlins are still in a hotel in Philly.
As for all of these eventual doubleheaders, strategy changes in a seven-inning game. If you have a strong starting pitcher going in one or both games, you're at an advantage because that pitcher can much more realistically go complete in a seven-inning game than in a nine-inning game. Typically, bullpens are taxed in a doubleheader, but if the Phillies have Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler pitching in a doubleheader on the same day, they might need their bullpen for only an inning or two combined. The ripple effect would be having to go the next four days without either one of them.
Health is another concern with doubleheaders. Playing 14 innings in a day when you haven't had a day off for a week and a half could result in strains and pulls. The Phillies will be facing that reality of ramped-up intensity next week if they resume their schedule Monday after not even being able to work out at Citizens Bank Park for days. All activity was canceled at CBP Thursday until further notice after a Phillies coach and home clubhouse attendant tested positive for COVID-19.
A week into the season, MLB is already having to postpone games and teams are already having to drastically change the plans they had. In a normal year, today would have been the trade deadline. A fun week of trade rumors dominating the baseball conversation couldn't feel farther away.