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MLB streaming 2021: Watch baseball’s pennant races live without cable

The pennant races of 2021 Major League Baseball season are in their stretch run. With roughly two weeks left in the regular season, the Wild Card race in each league is very tight, and two divisions in the National League remain up for grabs. 

In the NL East, the Braves are in the lead but remain within reach of the Phillies. The Dodgers and Giants in the NL West have already clinched playoff spots but are battling for the division crown with the second place team assured a Wild Card. The other four division races are all but over with the Brewers, Rays, White Sox and Astros each sitting pretty. The Wild Card races are where the real action is. The Cardinals, Padres, Reds and Phillies are battling for the second Wild Card in the NL, while the Blue Jays, Yankees and Red Sox are fighting for the two AL Wild Cards with the A’s and Mariners lingering.

With about 15 games left in the season, MLB has again dropped the price of its MLB.TV season subscription, and there are also a few free ways to watch live baseball in September. You don’t need cable to watch your favorite team’s games, but your options depend on which team you follow and where you live.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has led the Toronto Blue Jays back into playoff contention, where they are fighting with the Yankees and Red Sox for a Wild Card spot.


Mark Blinch/Getty Images

Live TV streaming service vs. MLB.TV

There are two major ways to stream MLB games day in, day out without a cable or satellite TV subscription:

Depending on where you live, one of the major live TV streaming services could carry the channel that has your favorite team. Those channels, called regional sports networks, deliver almost all of the regular-season games live. 

Most such services, however, carry only a handful of the 30 RSNs that show MLB games — and they’re typically the most expensive. DirecTV Stream carries the most RSNs, but you’ll need to spring for its $85-a-month plan; its basic $70-a-month plan doesn’t include RSNs. Sling TV, a service that costs $35 per month, doesn’t have any RSNs for baseball. If you’re a baseball fan who needs your team’s RSN, a cable subscription might actually be cheaper than streaming.

The other option is MLB.TV, a separate service that carries every game played by every team live. It’s great for hard-core fans in general. MLB.TV costs $27 for the remainder of the season.

The big catch with MLB.TV is the local blackout restriction: You can’t watch your local team’s games live. Instead, they become available about 90 minutes after the game ends. If you’re a Yankees fan in the New York area, for example, you can’t start to watch the Yankees game until an hour and a half after the final out. Other teams’ games aren’t blacked out live, which makes MLB.TV ideal for fans who want to follow one or more of the 28 or 29 teams based in other cities, aka out-of-market teams.

DirecTV Stream: Best for fans of the home team

Due to MLB.TV’s blackout restriction, a live TV streaming service is the best bet for following your local team. Many services carry the RSN that has exclusive rights to every regular season game, but availability varies by location and service. 

In addition to the RSNs listed below, live TV services carry most if not all of the major national networks — ESPN, Fox, FS1, MLB Network and TBS — that regularly televise matchups from different teams around the league. Details are at the top of this article.

Here’s how the RSNs stack up on each service.

RSN availability by team and streaming service

Team Network Name DirecTV Stream FuboTV YouTube TV Hulu with Live TV Sling Blue
Arizona Diamondbacks Bally Sports Arizona Yes No No No No
Atlanta Braves Bally Sports South Yes No No No No
Baltimore Orioles MASN Yes No No No No
Boston Red Sox NESN Yes Yes No No No
Chicago Cubs Marquee Sports Network Yes Yes No No No
Chicago White Sox NBC Sports Chicago Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Cincinnati Reds Bally Sports Ohio Yes No No No No
Cleveland Indians SportsTime Ohio Yes No No No No
Colorado Rockies AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain Yes No No No No
Detroit Tigers Bally Sports Detroit Yes No No No No
Houston Astros AT&T SportsNet Southwest and Bally Sports Southwest Yes Yes (AT&T SportsNet Southwest) No No No
Kansas City Royals Bally Sports Kansas City Yes No No No No
Los Angeles Angels Bally Sports West Yes No No No No
Los Angeles Dodgers Spectrum SportsNet LA Yes No No No No
Miami Marlins Bally Sports Florida Yes No No No No
Milwaukee Brewers Bally Sports Wisconsin Yes No No No No
Minnesota Twins Bally Sports North Yes No No No No
New York Mets SportsNet NY Yes Yes Yes Yes No
New York Yankees YES Yes No No No No
Oakland Athletics NBC Sports California Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Philadelphia Phillies NBC Sports Philadelphia No Yes Yes Yes No
Pittsburgh Pirates AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh Yes Yes No No No
San Diego Padres Bally Sports San Diego Yes No No No No
San Francisco Giants NBC Sports Bay Area Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Seattle Mariners Root Sports Northwest Yes No No No No
St. Louis Cardinals Bally Sports Midwest Yes No No No No
Tampa Bay Rays Bally Sports Sun Yes No No No No
Texas Rangers AT&T SportsNet Southwest and Bally Sports Southwest Yes Yes (AT&T SportsNet Southwest) No No No
Toronto Blue Jays SportsNet No No No No No
Washington Nationals MASN Yes No No No No

Some key takeaways:

  • The RSNs above are typically only available to local subscribers. Refer to the individual service’s details below to find out if you live in a place where you can receive a particular RSN. 
  • None of the (US-based) services carry the RSN for the Toronto Blue Jays.
  • DirecTV Stream’s $85-a-month Choice package includes 28 of the 30 RSNs for baseball — all but the Phillies and aforementioned Blue Jays.
  • It’s slim pickings for the other four services. FuboTV offers 10 RSNs for baseball, while Hulu Plus Live TV and YouTube TV offer only five. Sling TV doesn’t offer a single RSN.
  • YouTube TV is the only service that carries MLB Network in its base package. The others either charge more or don’t carry it at all.

One other note: Fox Sports RSNs have been rebranded as Bally Sports, because the channels are no longer owned by Fox but Sinclair, which has since partnered with casino group Bally’s to rename them. So, Fox Sports Ohio is now called Bally Sports Ohio and so on. 

If you are looking to watch your local team night in and night out, DirecTV Stream is your best bet. It offers by far the most RSNs of the live TV streaming services. Philadelphia and Toronto are the only MLB cities whose RSN is not offered on DirecTV Stream. FuboTV is second with 10 RSNs, giving you only a one-in-three chance of getting your local RSN to watch baseball.

DirecTV Stream is the priciest of the five major live TV streaming services, but it’s also the one with the most RSNs. Its cheapest, $70-a-month Plus package includes ESPN, Fox, FS1 and TBS. You’ll need to move up to the $85-a-month Choice plan to get MLB Network and any available RSN. You can use its channel lookup tool to see which local channels and RSNs are available in your area. 

MLB.TV subscription: Best for out-of-market games

Major League Baseball’s official streaming service is great for following your favorite team if you live outside its TV market. Because of the 90-minute blackout described above, however, it’s much less useful for following your local home team. 

MLB.TV subscribers also miss games that are broadcast nationally on ESPN, Fox, FS1, MLB Network and TBS. Those games are blacked out on MLB.TV, which can be particularly irksome for fans of the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers and other big-market teams that are frequently selected for national broadcasts.

The price of MLB.TV at the start of the season was $130. With only two weeks left, that has dropped to $27. As a subscriber, you can watch out-of-market games live or on demand, and the in-market (home) team with a 90-minute delay from the end of the game.

With MLB.TV, you can also listen to home and away radio broadcasts. The radio broadcasts aren’t subject to the blackout rule, so you can listen to home team games live. MLB.TV also includes a ton of video content, including classic games, baseball documentaries and old This Week in Baseball episodes.

Even if you don’t subscribe, you can still watch baseball with the MLB app. It offers one Free Game of the Day that anyone can stream live for free.

Read our MLB.TV review.

 

ESPN’s stand-alone streaming service costs $6 a month or $60 a year and shows one game nearly every day of the six-month MLB season. The catch is that your local team’s games are blacked out when they appear on ESPN Plus, similar to MLB.TV. Also, the games shown on ESPN Plus are not exclusive to ESPN Plus and are also available on MLB.TV.

Best options for nationally broadcast games

Aside from DirecTV Stream, the odds are long that a live TV streaming service carries the RSN for your local team’s games, which makes the other four services better bets for watching nationally televised games. YouTube also shows a game a week for free.

FuboTV costs $65 per month and offers 10 RSNs for baseball. It also includes ESPN, Fox and FS1 but not TBS. You can add MLB Network for an extra $11 a month with the Sports Plus with NFL RedZone add-on. Check out which local networks and RSNs it offers here.

YouTube TV costs $65 a month and offers five RSNs for baseball, along with all five channels for national broadcasts. Plug in your ZIP code on its welcome page to see which local networks and RSNs are available in your area.

Hulu with Live TV costs $65 a month and carries five RSNs for baseball along with ESPN, Fox, FS1 and TBS, but not MLB Network. Click the “View all channels in your area” link at the bottom of its welcome page to see which local networks and RSNs are available where you live.

Sling Blue currently lacks a single RSN to watch baseball. You can, however, use Sling to watch national baseball broadcasts. Sling TV’s Orange plan includes ESPN, and the Blue plan includes Fox and FS1. Both plans offer TBS. The MLB Network is available as part of the Sports Extra add-on, which costs $11 a month for either the Blue or Orange plan or $15 for the combined Orange-and-Blue plan. The individual plans cost $35 a month each, and the Orange-and-Blue plan costs $50 a month. You can see which local channels you get here.

Each live TV streaming service offers a free trial, allows you to cancel anytime and requires a solid internet connection. Looking for more information? Check out our live TV streaming services guide.

For the third year, YouTube streams some MLB games for free. For the 2021 season, 21 games will be shown as the MLB Game of the Week Live on YouTube. Two games remain on the schedule

  • A’s and Angels on Sept. 17
  • Cardinals and Brewers on Sept. 23

Yankees games on Prime Video

For Yankees fans in the team’s market, Amazon will stream 21 Yankees games on Prime Video this season. While you don’t need to live in the Bronx to stream these games, the area where they’re available is limited — New York state, Connecticut, northeast Pennsylvania, and north and central New Jersey. You’ll need to be a Prime member, too. 

Three Prime Video games remain:

  • Sept. 17 against the Indians
  • Sept. 24 against the Red Sox
  • Sept. 29 against the Blue Jays

MLB At Bat add-on

The MLB At Bat app is great on phones and even better on tablets. If you bought an MLB.TV subscription (as outlined above), you can log in to your account and watch games live in the app. There is a cheaper subscription option for use with the mobile app only, but it’s limited in what it lets you watch.

You can buy an At Bat subscription via the MLB At Bat app. It costs $20 a year (or $3 a month) and lets you listen to the home or away radio broadcasts — baseball is the only sport I can listen to on the radio — and watch one game per day during the season. You can’t choose which game you want to watch; you’re stuck with the MLB.TV Free Game of the Day.

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