Nats forced to play afternoon games in NLDS

Nats forced to play afternoon games in NLDS
October 5, 2012, 4:05 pm
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The first two postseason games by a Washington baseball team in 79 years will have late-afternoon starting times, and don't be surprised if that trend continues next week once the National League Division Series returns to the District.

Major League Baseball today announced starting times for all postseason games through Tuesday, revealing that Game 1 of the NLDS between the Nationals and the winner of today's NL Wild Card Game between the Braves and Cardinals will begin at 3:07 p.m. EDT Sunday. Game 2 will be played at 4:37 p.m. EDT Monday.

Start times for Games 3-5 -- scheduled to be played Wednesday through Friday at Nationals Park -- have not been announced yet. But it's likely that Game 3 will feature another afternoon start, and it's possible the same could be true for potential Games 4 and 5.

Why all the day baseball? Because the Nationals, as the No. 1 seed in the NL, have the same Division Series schedule as the Yankees, the AL's top seed. And MLB and TBS (which is broadcasting all but two Division Series games over the next week) prefer to showcase the star-studded, 27-time World Series champs from New York in primetime whenever possible.

Thus, the Yankees will open their ALDS on the road Sunday night against the winner of tonight's Wild Card Game between the Orioles and Rangers at 6:15 p.m. EDT and will play Game 2 on Monday at 8:07 p.m., with the Nationals serving as the lead-in both days.

Sunday's Game 1 also will partially run up against the Redskins' 1 p.m. home game against the Falcons.

Start times for the final three games of the NLDS, all scheduled to be played in Washington, likely won't be announced until the last possible minute because they could be affected by the status of other Division Series that could be wrapped up by then. The NLDS between the Giants and Reds and the ALDS between the Tigers and Athletics could be over as early as Tuesday if one team sweeps the three-game series.

But if either of those series extends to four games, it would affect the starting time for Wednesday's Game 3 between the Nationals and Braves or Cardinals.

If the games at Nationals Park end up being played in the afternoon, outfielders from both teams will have to contend with the potentially difficult sun that resulted in three dropped flyballs over the course of two days Sept. 23-24.

Meanwhile, a familiar (and not-so-popular) face will be umpiring the Nationals' Division Series: Marvin Hudson. Hudson, who blew a call at first base during a Sept. 15 loss to the Braves that led to manager Davey Johnson's lone ejection of the season, was named by MLB as one of the six umpires on the crew for this series.

The full list of umpires: Joe West (crew chief), Paul Emmel, Ed Hickox, Hudson, Jim Joyce and Alfonso Marquez.

Per MLB rules, umpires are not allowed to work consecutive postseason rounds. Thus, anyone umpiring in the Division Series cannot work in the League Championship Series, though they are eligible to return for the World Series.