The New York Yankees prevailed in a rain-shortened showdown with MLB World Series champions the Washington Nationals on Opening Day, while the Los Angeles Dodgers eased past the San Francisco Giants.

Coronavirus has wreaked havoc across the globe, especially in the United States, forcing the start of the 2020 MLB season to be pushed back since March.

But after 297 consecutive days without a regular-season game – the longest drought since the first major league fixture was played in 1876 – MLB made its long-awaited return on Thursday and the Yankees topped the Nationals 4-1 through six innings.

The Yankees led 4-1 midway through the sixth inning before severe weather prompted a delay at Nationals Park in Washington, where the matchup was eventually called off following a break of almost two hours.

Playing behind closed doors amid the COVID-19 crisis to kick off a coronavirus-shortened season, Dr. Anthony Fauci threw the ceremonial first pitch before all Nationals and Yankees players kneeled together prior to the national anthem.

For the first time ever, a defending champions' Opening Day line-up did not feature any of their top four home-run leaders from the previous season following Juan Soto's positive COVID-19 test.

And the Nationals were unable to fill the void after six innings, despite three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer becoming the first pitcher in the modern era to record 10-plus strikeouts on Opening Day in three consecutive seasons.

Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton hit a two-run homer off Scherzer to give New York a 2-0 lead and the perfect start on the road, while Aaron Judge recorded an RBI double off the Nationals ace in the third inning.

Stanton, Judge, Gio Urshela and Tyler Wade all scored for the Yankees, who benefited from star pitcher Gerrit Cole's impressive debut.

The Dodgers also opened their season with a victory on Thursday, easing past the San Francisco Giants 8-1.

After signing a mammoth 12-year contract extension, Dodgers debutant Mookie Betts tallied a run, but Enrique Hernandez led the way with four hits and five RBIs.

The Giants had broken the deadlock in the third inning, however, the Dodgers took control with a five-run seventh inning in Los Angeles.

Dustin May pitched four innings after a back problem prevented Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw from pitching on Opening Day for the ninth time.