On Saturday, the Washington Nationals will take the field for a game for the first time since celebrating its World Series victory on Oct. 30.
From the clubhouse to the parade, there's been no shortage of celebration for the team since that magical night in Houston. Now, it's time for Nationals fans to celebrate the chance to watch their team back in action again.
The reigning World Series champions will play 31 spring training games over the next month as the team tries to decide which 26 players will begin this season's title defense with the big league club.
Here are five games Nationals fans should monitor in the spring training slate.
Feb. 22 @ Astros
A few months ago, this spring training game would have been notable for the mere fact that it was a World Series rematch against two teams that share a spring training facility.
Oh, how things have changed. This game suddenly comes with even more storylines than anyone could have imagined.
Houston will make its first spring training appearance since the sign-stealing scandal that rocked Major League Baseball. The Astros will get its first game action of being the villain, whether that's treatment from fans or treatment from their peers around the league.
All of the narratives dilutes the fact that the World Series champions are returning to the field, and that Max Scherzer is scheduled to be on the mound for the Nationals.
Max Scherzer felt good coming out of live batting practice today and in on track to start against the Astros on Saturday. He smiled while saying his shoulder felt sore, and was encouraged there wasn’t pain anywhere else (neck, back, etc.).— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) February 19, 2020
This game starts at 6:05 p.m. and will be broadcasted on MASN. If there was ever a spring training game that was a "can't-miss game," this feels like one.
Feb. 24 vs. Mets
This chance to play against a division foe in spring training offers a first look at the new-look New York Mets, who are the Nationals' first regular-season opponent of 2020.
The Mets indirectly got caught up in the Astros' sign-stealing scandal as its newly hired manager Carlos Beltran was one of the players involved in the operation.
Beltran resigned before the team reported spring training, effectively ending his tenure before it really ever began. Luis Rojas took over that role for the Mets.
The Mets also made a few moves to shore up their pitching, adding Rick Porcello, Michael Wacha and Dellin Betances.
March 3 vs. Orioles
Washington plays its interleague rival twice in spring training, with one of those matchups being a split-squad game.
March 3 will feature both spring training squads at full strength, pitting the Nationals top prospect Carter Kieboom against the Orioles No. 1 pick Adley Rutschman.
The Orioles aren't likely to be contenders like the Nationals are projected to be, but this spring game will serve as a preview for the annual "Battle of the Beltways."
March 12 vs. Yankees
The Nationals play the Yankees twice this spring, pitting two of the league's best against one another.
Both teams will enter the 2020 season with sky-high expectations, and the two spring games will offer a chance to see what the rosters could end up as.
The Yankees made a blockbuster move this offseason, signing Gerrit Cole to bolster their pitching staff to complement its loaded lineup.
Washington and New York play once on Feb. 26 and again on March 12, with the second game being televised on MASN at 1:05 p.m.
March 22 vs. Cardinals
This matchup serves as one last spring training game before the team breaks camp and looks ahead to the regular season.
Washington's last tune-up game against another team comes against last season's NL Central champion and the team that the Nationals swept in the NLCS.
After this game, the 26 players that make the big league roster will head north for the regular season, which begins on the road on March 26 against the Mets.
It may only be spring training, but competitive baseball is back.
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