One aspect of baseball fandom that most British fans will be familiar with is that it’s often quite hard to watch live baseball on a regular basis. If you work unusual hours it’s a different matter, but for the fan who works 9-5, the choice is often sleep or baseball. Some people can survive on 3-4 hours sleep, or are forced to survive on little sleep (any new parents out there?), but for the rest of us, it’s a tough sport to follow live.
I’m not here to tell you that there’s a big secret that’s going to make your baseball-watching experience easier. That is, unless you have no idea what MLB TV is, in which case there is a big secret that is going to make your baseball-watching experience easier. If you want to watch as much baseball as possible, get MLB TV. Done it? Good. Let’s move on to the actual goal of this post, which is to break down the schedule each week to help UK fans target the games they can watch and still get an amount of sleep that won’t leave you as sluggish as Mark Trumbo in the outfield. Each day that there are games that meet our criteria, I’ll pick out one worth watching and offer some reasons why you should tune in. Before we get started, here’s a few introductory notes.
Eligible Games & Schedule
The goal of these posts will be to list all the games that you should have a good chance to watch the majority of, assuming they don’t go to extra-innings. I’m going to interpret that as games that start up to around 9PM UK time, given that the average MLB game takes just over three hours. Unless there’s a notable game around the fringes of this, I won’t list any games outside of that window. You can find the schedule, including probable starters, on the MLB site here, and the actual MLB TV page with links to every broadcast here. There are multiple nights most weeks in which there are no games that start before midnight, with 7:05PM a fairly common East Coast start time. If you have MLB TV, you can go back and watch these games at any time, but I won’t bother identifying games on these days.
MLB.tv Free Game of the Day
For those of you who don’t have MLB TV, there is always one free game each day. In the event that this game falls during UK-friendly hours, I’ll note that it’s the free game, so you can simply search for “Free Game” to find them in any given week. The free games are also highlighted on the MLB TV schedule a week in advance.
Games of the Week
For people looking for a top-tier pitching duel or a slugfest, I’ll also highlight one game on each side to focus on, based on the quality of the starters or the respective lineups. Naturally, this being baseball, it will probably never work out, but for those who want to see how it goes anyway, these will be denoted as “Top Pitching Matchup” and “Top Offensive Matchup“.
One thing to bear in mind if you’re a new baseball fan is that there are certain features of the schedule that are much friendlier. In particular, Sunday is ideal for UK viewers, as it’s made up of almost exclusively daytime baseball. A number of games will start just after 1pm Eastern, which is 6pm in the UK, and usually the only game that will always fall completely outside of our target range is ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball selection, which starts at 1am. Saturday always has at least a few day games that fall in our window, and Thursday is often an off day for teams but also features many day games on a regular basis. For any day that features a significant number of eligible games, I’ll focus on one or two of particular interest.
The Cubs offer another scheduling quirk as a result of the limited number of night games they can play. The World Series winners have a complicated history with night games, resisting the trend towards baseball being played in the evening for decades. They did not play a single home game at night until 1988, when lights were finally installed. As Wrigley Field is in a residential neighbourhood, there are still limits on how often the Cubs can play at night, and as a result they are frequently on at a time that fits nicely into our schedule, especially on a Friday, when a 1:20pm Central (7:20pm UK) is the consistent start time for Cubs home games. So if you’re a Cubs fan, you have another reason to be happy – not that you needed it. On to this week’s schedule.
Eligible Games, May 2nd-7th
Tuesday, May 2nd
Wednesday, May 3rd
Thursday, May 4th
5:35 PM – Pirates @ Reds
6:05 PM – Diamondbacks @ Nationals (Top Pitching Matchup) – Zack Greinke faces off against Max Scherzer in a battle of two Cy Young winners. Greinke looks to be returning to ace form after a disappointing first year in Arizona, while Scherzer has consistently been one of the 3 or 4 best pitchers in the game for several years. This was also a contender for best offensive matchup, making it an especially difficult challenge for the two starters.
6:10 PM – Indians @ Tigers – Danny Salazar and Michael Fulmer are not Greinke and Scherzer, but they are both intriguing young pitchers with clear upside. Salazar has absurdly struck out a third of all batters he’s faced so far this year, but still needs to improve his control and prove he can stay healthy in order to take the step into the upper echelon of starters. Fulmer surprised many by winning the 2016 AL Rookie of the Year award with 159 impressive innings in his debut season, and he’s carried last year’s skills over to 2017. He’s not as flashy as Salazar, but he’s been much more reliable.
6:10 PM – Athletics @ Twins
6:45 PM – Brewers @ Cardinals
7:10 PM – Rangers @ Astros
7:15 PM – White Sox @ Royals
7:20 PM – Phillies @ Cubs
8:40 PM – Rockies @ Padres (Free Game)
Friday, May 5th
7:20 PM – Yankees @ Cubs (Top Offensive Matchup) – The Yankees have had the league’s second-best lineup, behind only the Nationals, thanks in large part to the monstrous power of Aaron Judge. The defending champions have started a little slower but have two of the league’s best hitters in Anthony Rizzo and 2016 MVP Kris Bryant, and a cast of exciting young stars with plenty of potential to improve. This will also be the only chance UK fans get to watch two of the game’s biggest clubs face each other at a reasonable time for three years, as it’s an interleague series and the other games this series, as well as any potential future World Series matchups, will start after midnight.
Saturday, May 6th
7:10 PM – Red Sox @ Twins – While the Twins’ starting pitcher is still undecided at the time of writing, highly-touted prospect Jose Berrios is destroying opposing lineups at Triple-A Rochester, with a 1.09 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 33 innings. Berrios got destroyed in his first taste of the big leagues in 2016 but clearly isn’t being challenged at Triple A. Should the 22-year-old come up to fill the vacant spot in the Minnesota rotation, he’ll face the reigning AL Cy Young, Rick Porcello, who got off to a rough start but has settled down with three straight quality starts. The Twins are also worth watching for third baseman Miguel Sano, who is hitting the ball harder on average than any other player in the major leagues.
9:10 PM – Blue Jays @ Rays
9:15 PM – Indians @ Royals
Sunday, May 7th
6:10 PM – Marlins @ Mets
6:10 PM – Blue Jays @ Rays
6:35 PM – White Sox @ Orioles
6:35 PM – Cardinals @ Braves
6:35 PM – Brewers @ Pirates (Free Game) – A chance for fans who don’t subscribe to MLB TV to see our new hero, the Bibim Bopper, London Pride, T-Rex, Neptune himself, Eric “The River” Thames in action. In case you hadn’t guessed, we still haven’t decided on a nickname, so if you find yourself coming up with one while you watch Thames try to hit one out against wild Pirates starter Tyler Glasnow, let us know in the comments or on Twitter.
7:10 PM – Red Sox @ Twins
7:15 PM – Indians @ Royals – Another contender for pitching matchup of the week, Cleveland’s emotionless strikeout machine Corey Kluber – or “The Klubot” – takes on 2016 breakout star Danny Duffy. With over 400 combined strikeouts between them last season and the Royals putting up one of the worst offensive months in MLB history, the stage is set for a tense, low-scoring affair, so naturally this one will finish 12-11.
7:35 PM – Nationals @ Phillies
8:10 PM – Diamondbacks @ Rockies
8:37 PM – Astros @ Angels
9:05 PM – Tigers @ Athletics
9:10 PM – Rangers @ Mariners
9:10 PM – Giants @ Reds
9:40 PM – Dodgers @ Padres – This is probably going to finish a little on the late side for our purposes, but if you can make time just to watch the parts of the game in which MLB’s best pitcher Clayton Kershaw is in action, you won’t regret it, especially against one of the league’s worst lineups (sorry, Tom).