MLB season opening tonight with Yankees and Nationals

Today is opening day for Major League Baseball.
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(AP) — Major League Baseball starts the virus-delayed season Thursday night with two games.

Washington ace Max Scherzer is set to throw the first pitch when he faces Gerrit Cole and the New York Yankees at Nationals Park. Later, Los Angeles lefty Clayton Kershaw takes on the rival San Francisco Giants at Dodger Stadium.

This opening day doubleheader begins the most unusual year in the history of Major League Baseball. Teams will play 60 games in ballparks without fans, with a whole new set of rules and safety protocols. Sound effects will be piped into stadiums and cardboard cutouts will occupy many seats.

To start a season so deeply affected by the virus outbreak, the World Series champion Nationals will have Dr. Anthony Fauci (FOW’-chee), the nation’s top infectious disease expert, toss out the ceremonial first ball.

The Nationals begin the defense of their World Series title against a franchise that in one way they’re trying to replicate. No team has won consecutive championships in MLB since the Yankees took three in a row from 1998 to 2000.

In other MLB news:

— Fox Sports has revealed that it will include computer-generated fans beginning with their three games on Saturday. Fox begins its coverage with Milwaukee at the Chicago Cubs. That will be followed by San Francisco at Los Angeles Dodgers and the New York Yankees at Washington. Fox may draw some jeers for adding fans to empty ballparks, judging how fan opinions about crowd noise being added to baseball games have been mixed. But Fox Sports vice president Brad Zager is hoping that people give it a chance.

— The Cleveland Indians will consult with Native American leaders as they consider changing the name of their franchise for the first time since 1915. Owner Paul Dolan gave more details on the steps the team is taking toward a potential name change amid a national movement to remove racist symbols and monuments. Earlier this week, Dolan met with Cleveland’s players and manager Terry Francona to discuss their views on a potential name change as well as other issues such as social justice and race relations. Dolan said the team will meet with Native American groups in “the coming weeks.”