Thinking about the 2018 season — just after the Nationals clinched the National League East title, long before their 2017 fate will be determined — feels premature. But Major League Baseball released its 2018 schedule Tuesday, forcing a quick look to the future before restoring focus on the present.
Next season will start earlier than any in the D.C. history of the Nationals, and begins with a three-game series in Cincinnati, followed by a three-game series in Atlanta. The Nationals’ home opener will come on April 5 against the New York Mets, their most hostile division rival, after a season in which that rivalry fizzled somewhat due to the Mets’ injury-induced struggles.
The early start comes as a result of the new collective bargaining agreement. The schedule will include more off-days and restrictions on when teams can take cross-time-zone flights. As a result, the travel in next year’s Nationals schedule looks far more forgiving than this year’s. Every time they return from the West Coast, the Nationals have an off-day for travel built into their schedule.
Next year’s interleague matchup pits the National League East against the American League East, and the Nationals will travel to Toronto, Yankee Stadium and Tampa — but not Fenway Park. The Nationals last played there for Boston’s home opener in 2015. They will, however, host the Red Sox on the Fourth of July. The Yankees come to Nationals Park for a two-game series in mid-May.
And after a year of trying road trips in 2017, the Nationals are scheduled for a trio of three-city road trips in 2018. One carries them from New York to Los Angeles and San Francisco. Another takes them from Miami to Baltimore to Atlanta, a somewhat nonsensical geographic swing that nevertheless allows them three days at home in the middle. The final three-city road trip takes them from Philadelphia to Atlanta and Miami with two off-days included. In other words, the travel should be easier this time around, as bargained for in the new CBA.
The home highlight of the 2018 schedule, of course, is the 2018 All-Star Game at Nationals Park. The all-star break will run from July 16-19 with the game on July 17.