WASHINGTON (WJZ) — The Major League Baseball season begins this week and the Washington Nationals enter the 2020 shortened season with an opportunity to defend their World Series championship.

The Nationals begin play Thursday against the New York Yankees, in a matchup that will feature aces Max Scherzer and Gerrit Cole. While the Nats have many familiar faces back from the 2019 championship team, Anthony Rendon is now a member of the Los Angeles Angels and Ryan Zimmerman and Joe Ross decided to sit out this season.

All that being said, CBS Sports MLB writer Mike Axisa believes Washington will still be in the mix for the NL East crown.

“I think the Nationals are really going to be helped by the shutdown,” said Axisa in an interview with CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith. “They get the benefit of a break and they rode their starting pitchers so hard last postseason and it won them a title. Those guys soaked up a lot of innings last season and they had a shorter offseason to recover. The Nationals have an old, veteran roster. Now that they’ve had this delay and their starting pitchers have gotten time to rest, that makes them much more dangerous. That division is okay and I don’t think there are any great teams in there, but there are four pretty good teams. The Nationals certainly have the talent and they should be right there at the end.”

While Rendon’s 34 home runs and 126 RBIs will be tough to replace, Axisa thinks that Soto and Turner are ready to take the next steps as the stars of the Nationals.

“Soto is obviously the centerpiece there and I think Trea Turner is the catalyst for everything they do there,” said Axisa. “He’s such a good player and does everything well. He runs the bases well, he’s a good hitter, has power and good defense. As good as he’s been, I feel like he can be even better.”

The Nationals open up their season at home against the Yankees on Thursday. First pitch is at 7:08 p.m. EST.


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