The Nationals and the Yankees are ready to do battle at Nationals Park for the first time in franchise history. Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he has had some experience working games in D.C., and is impressed with the Nationals of today and the new park. The last time he faced the Nationals, they were still playing at RFK Stadium.
"I think it is great that baseball is here in Washington," Girardi said. "I had a chance to come here in 2006 when I was with the Marlins. They were building this stadium. They were excited about baseball in Washington. It is the nation's capital. I think it is wonderful."
New York comes in riding a six-game win streak. The Yankees have won 11 of their last 13 games, but Girardi recognizes that the Nationals are also hitting their stride early in the season and sees how the team has been built up since his last visit here.
"They have done it through some trades and the draft," Girardi said. "They have built their system up. They have some superstars on their team. It is good. It is good for baseball."
The Yankees will miss the top pitching draft pick of the last few years in right-hander Stephen Strasburg. But, they will have to go against that other major draft selection in young outfield sensation Bryce Harper.
Girardi said he is looking forward to seeing Harper play in person for the first time.
"It is amazing," Girardi said. "Nineteen years old, doing what this kid is doing is absolutely amazing. The little bit that we get to see him play, because we are usually playing at the same time, he plays extremely hard. He is aggressive. He seems to play the game the right way. He wants to play every day. He never wants to sit."
Girardi said it is hard to compare Harper to anyone he has seen play because he hasn't seen the rookie play enough.
"It is going to be pretty hard to compare him to a 19-year-old because 19-year-olds aren't usually here," he said.
The Yankees and win streaks are pretty normal occurrences. But for the Nationals, it is unchartered territory.
"I am sure they enjoy it," Girardi said. "I am sure they are enjoying their success and the media attention that they are getting now, because it probably hasn't always been like that here. They have had to do it the old-fashioned way, build it up through their system and get a new stadium and do it that way. I am sure they like being good."
Girardi believes that the exposure won't affect a relatively young team, that hasn't enjoyed success before, because the Nationals seem to have the makeup from player to manager to sustain this positive trend.
"They do have some veteran players that can probably help in those situations," Girardi said. "They got a manager (in Davey Johnson). Think about where he has managed. He knows how to handle it. I am sure he will keep it in check."