It's been four months in the making, but the Nationals will finally be able to begin their World Series title defense.

On Thursday night against the Yankees, Washington will begin a 60-game sprint to the playoffs and what they hope to be another extended run through the postseason. Past defending champions haven't had as much luck going back-to-back, as the last NL team to do it was the 1975-76 Reds. 

But the playoffs aren't until October. As it went for every World Series winner before them, it all begins on Opening Day. So we looked back at how the last 10 defending champs did on Opening Day to see if we can find a template for the Nats to follow. 

2010 Yankees*: L 9-7 vs. Red Sox
2011 Giants: L 2-2 vs. Dodgers
2012 Cardinals*: W 4-1 vs. Marlins
2013 Giants: L 4-0 vs. Dodgers
2014 Red Sox: L 2-1 vs. Orioles
2015 Giants: W 5-4 vs. Diamondbacks
2016 Royals: W 4-3 vs. Mets
2017 Cubs*: L 4-3 vs. Cardinals
2018 Astros*: W 4-1 vs. Rangers
2019 Red Sox: L 12-4 vs. Mariners

* = Made the playoffs

As you can see, defending World Series champions have gone 4-6 to open up their title defense over the last 10 years. What's more troubling is only four of those 10 teams made the postseason, though all four of those teams made it as far as their league's championship series. 

The lesson to be learned here for the Nationals, and one they most likely already know, is that repeating is hard. Then when you consider a 60-game season without Anthony Rendon, and the challenges begin to mount for Washington. 

 

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But since when was adversity a problem for this group? Last year, they started 19-31 and ended up winning the World Series. It's not like they can afford to do that again, but perhaps the difficulty this season will have on every team will give the Nats an advantage. 

Can the Nats break the trend of unsuccessful World champs? The best part is we don't have to wait very long to find out. 

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