The Washington Times - January 18, 2012, 11:41AM

ESPN released its early-season Sunday Night Baseball schedule Wednesday morning and the Nationals appear on it for the first time since Opening Day 2008 — and just the third time in organizational history (since moving to D.C.) The other appearances came on May 1, 2005 and April 23, 2006.

The Nationals, who will likely find their name in the “teams to watch” category once the national analysts and pundits begin making their picks, will headline the 8 p.m. national telecast on Sun., May 6 at home against the Phillies and again on May 27 in Atlanta against the Braves. 

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It’s pretty clear the ESPN execs are trying to capitalize on the competition in the National League East — which is shaping up as one of the best in baseball — and it’ll be particularly interesting what types of pitching matchups we get for those games. If the division (and the Nationals) live up to the hype from this offseason, there’s probably a good chance they could get a few more games in the second half of the season.

That Braves game, however, is followed with a brutal turnaround for the Nationals, who are slated to play a 1:10 p.m. Memorial Day game in Miami the following day. It will be their first trip to the Marlins new stadium.

Here’s the full first half schedule for ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball:

April 8Chicago White Sox at Texas
April 15L.A. Angels at N.Y. Yankees
April 22Yankees at Boston
April 29Tampa Bay at Texas
May 6Philadelphia at Washington
May 13Angels at Texas
May 20St. Louis at L.A. Dodgers
May 27Washington at Atlanta
June 3-July 1TBD
July 8Yankees at Boston
July 15St. Louis at Cincinnati