ESPN Scores Most-Watched Regular Season MLB Game Since 2011 With Rain-Shortened Opening Night

Four million people watched six innings of Yankees-Nationals on Thursday

Getty Images

Despite Mother Nature raining on its Opening Night parade, ESPN still managed to draw a big crowd for its first game of the shortened MLB season.

More than 4 million tuned in to watch the first baseball game of the season, according to Nielsen numbers, a rain-shortened affair between the Washington Nationals and New York Yankees. It was ESPN’s best-ever viewership for an Opening Night game (though this one came nearly three months later than usual) and the most-watched regular season game on any network in nine years.

The game, a 3-1 win by the Yankees, only lasted six innings until a heavy thunderstorm drowned out the nation’s capital. The Yankees-Nationals game was up 8% from the previous Opening Night record in 2017, which drew 3.7 million viewers to watch the St. Louis Cardinals host the then-defending champion Chicago Cubs.

The late matchup between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants drew 2.8 million viewers, the network’s most-watched late game ever.

The game telecast delivered an 8.4 rating in the Washington D.C. market, which is the highest-rated regular season MLB game ever on ESPN in the market. It also generated a 7.8 rating in the New York market, making it the highest-rated regular season MLB game on ESPN in the market since 2015.

MLB begins full play on its super-short 60-game season on Friday.