The last time the Nationals ventured to Cleveland was 2010. The weekend series was June 11-13, 2010, almost the exact same time of the year. Cleveland was hoping LeBron James would stay with the Cavaliers and the Indians were a below-.500 ball club.
The Indians won the first two games of the series pretty easily - 7-2 and 7-1. The Nationals’ first two starters were Luis Atilano and J.D. Martin. The highlight early in the series was former Nationals outfielder Austin Kearns’ two Friday night homers.
Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond and Roger Bernadina were the only players from 2013 that had regular at-bats in that series.
The largest crowd, and the game that everyone pointed to in the series was Sunday, when rookie Stephen Strasburg made his second career start and first on the road.
On June 8, 2010, Strasburg had made his major league debut at Nationals Park. Before 40,315, Strasburg went seven innings and struck out 14 hitters. He struck out three batters in the second, sixth and seventh innings. He walked none and allowed four hits, one a two-run shot by Delwyn Young.
Later, Strasburg came back and struck out Young in the seventh. It was one of the loudest roars I had ever heard at Nationals Park from the crowd, and made that night feel like a playoff game.
Strasburg notched the win, as the Nationals downed the Pirates 5-2.
That next weekend in Cleveland, I was the sideline reporter for that game. The Nationals arrived with a 30-31 record.
There was hype surrounding the fireball throwing first year player. I remember talking to Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley that weekend about Strasburg. Even Browns rookie cornerback Joe Haden, who grew up in Fort Washington, Md., sat in the Nationals dugout during batting practice to catch a glimpse of the baseball rookie everyone was talking about.
Strsburg struggled a bit that Sunday. During the game, he continually had issues with the mound dirt and his footing, where he would plant and where he would drive off that foot. He seemed to lose his footing on a few pitches. The grounds crew came oout to try to pack down the dirt. It may have contributed to his five walks.
But Strasburg was able to hold the Indians to just two hits, a Travis Hafner solo shot and a Carlos Santana single. Strasburg left in the sixth with the bases loaded and one out.
Thanks to Drew Storen, the Nationals got out of the sixth inning. Strasburg finished with 5 1/3 innings, allowing just that one run, striking out eight in a 9-4 win over Cleveland. Strasburg was suddenly 2-0.
It will be interesting to see ff the mound causes Strasburg any more frustration this time around. It will be another Sunday start in Cleveland. But the stakes are much different now and Strasburg is a much different pitcher.