MLB opener was most-viewed regular-season game in 9 years

A bolt of lightning comes down from the clouds during the sixth inning of an opening day baseball game between the Washington Nationals and the New York Yankees at Nationals Park, Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Washington.

BRISTOL, Conn. (AP) — The pandemic-delayed Major League Baseball opener was the sport’s most-watched regular-season game on any network in nine years.

The New York Yankees’ rain-shortened 4-1 win at the Washington Nationals on Thursday night averaged 4 million viewers on ESPN, according to Nielsen fast national ratings. The game peaked at 8:30 p.m. EDT with 4.48 million viewers.

No regular-season game had been viewed by that many since 4.7 million watched Boston beat the Yankees 3-2 in 10 innings on Aug. 7, 2011, also on ESPN.

ESPN’s previous high for an opener was 3.7 million for a 2017 matchup between the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs. Chicago tied the score with three runs in the ninth, and Randal Grichuck hit a walkoff single off Mike Montgomery in the bottom half. Seattle’s 12-4 victory over Boston on opening night last year was seen by 1.2 million on ESPN.

The Los Angeles Dodgers’ 8-1 win over San Francisco in the second game of Thursday’s doubleheader averaged 2,764,000 viewers on ESPN. The network said it was its most-watched late-night Eastern time baseball telecast, topping the previous high of 1,817,000 for the Chicago Cubs’ 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 10, 2017, a game that ended on Anthony Rizzo’s single off Kenley Jansen.

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