Of all the road trips a baseball writer takes throughout the course of a season -- rent-a-cars and regional jets, layovers and late departures -- the train ride to New York is probably my favorite.
As a Midwesterner that's still relatively new to the East Coast baseball canon, there's still something nostalgic for me about getting on a train, watching cities whiz by out the window and popping up out of Penn Station in the middle of Manhattan. It's the way baseball writers traveled from Washington to New York a half-century ago, when the occasion was still American League baseball, before either of the teams playing tonight were in existence and long before blogging , laptops and wi-fi would slip into the lexicon.
Stepping out of my time warp for a second, this is a great trip for other, more practical reasons: No hurry-up-and-wait at the airport (Amtrak recommends you arrive a half-hour before your train, and boarding begins 10 minutes before it leaves), no need for a car and no shortage of things to do in New York. Some people hate it up there; I love it. Not sure I could live there, but I'd never pass up a chance to visit -- and it's a little invigorating to pull your MetroCard out of your pocket, head directly for the subway line you want and mutter something about all the out-of-town tourists that don't know where they're going.
Just a little New Yorker wannabe game I like to play.
Anyway, on to baseball: Of the 24 games the Nationals play this month, 18 of them are against teams that had winning records last season. These three against the Mets are not. They come against a team that's already struggling, and the Nationals beat Mike Pelfrey, the Mets' Friday starter, twice last season. Washington also went 8-10 against the Mets last season, which tied for its best mark against any team in the division and represented five more wins than the Nationals had against the Phillies.
So while it's not a crucial series -- nothing this early in the season is -- it's a chance for the Nationals to bank a couple wins. Because after that it's on to Philadelphia for another three-game set with the Phillies, and a tough 10-game homestand that includes the Brewers, Rockies and Dodgers, three teams that have a combined five playoff appearances in the last three years.
Garrett Mock makes his first start of the season tonight for the Nationals, who start John Lannan on Saturday afternoon and Livan Hernandez on Sunday.
One minor-league note for you -- I wrote this yesterday in response to a comment, but I'll repost it in a place that's easier to find. Right-hander Brad Meyers, the Nationals' 2009 minor-league pitcher of the year, is still in extended spring training working through some muscle spasms. But minor-league operations coordinator said Meyers should be healthy soon, and will be at Double-A Harrisburg once he's ready.