Time to take advantage


The Nats arrived at their hotel here in Cleveland at 2:30 this morning (Friday), wide awake and with renewed energy after their first sweep of the season.

Before we get too carried away, it was the worst offensive team in the league, the Pirates; but when you win games you’re supposed to win at the major league level, you can pad your win total, and that’s what the Nats did.

This road trip and the upcoming homestand present similar opportunities. Manny Acta’s Indians are last in the AL Central, and Jim Leland’s Tigers are second in that division, but an underachieving team so far this season. Those two clubs represent the next six games.

It’s home after that to face Ozzie Guillen’s really underachieving White Sox, and GM Kenny Williams appears to be on the verge of dismantling that team. Then come the Royals and their new manager, Ned Yost, struggling with Cleveland to stay out of the cellar. Interleague play concludes with the Nats at Baltimore and their new interim skipper Juan Samuel.

So, there you have it: 15 games against AL teams, 12 of them versus struggling ballclubs.

No written piece this week can ignore the impact Stephen Strasburg had Tuesday on his ballclub, District, metropolitan area, and baseball in general.

I have been in ballparks where Bob Gibson, Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson have taken their home crowds with them on wild rides through batting orders, striking out everyone in sight and electrifying the evenings on which they pitch. Tuesday was right up there with the best of them all, and when you consider it was Strasburg’s major league debut, the feat becomes even more amazing. What does he do for an encore? We’ll find out Sunday here in Ohio, and the Indians will reap the benefits at the gate, selling thousands of tickets and probably doubling their average attendance.

By the way, life on the road has changed for the Nationals. They are “a draw” now with a future Hall-of-Fame catcher, an All-Star third-baseman, and baseball’s newest attraction on the mound. The crowds will be bigger, which will make for an interesting dynamic.

In 1998, fans on the road wanted Mark McGwire to hit home runs, even against their own pitchers. They booed their manager when he would walk the slugger, eliciting angry words from these managers who were simply trying to win and save their jobs.

Will fans here in Cleveland and elsewhere want to see Strasburg strike out their own hitters? Or throw a no-hitter? It should be a wild ride, and it should make the last 100 games of 2010 very interesting.

Sure beats losing over 100 games and being out the race by the All-Star Break, doesn’t it?