This is why you have an ace.
So that when you win the opener of a series, and he's pitching in two days, you know you've most likely already done what you need to do to win a series. So that when you take the first two games of a three-game set, you can turn to him and expect a sweep.
This is why the Nationals paid so handsomely for the services of Stephen Strasburg, and so far, they've gotten exactly what they purchased. Strasburg is 2-0 with a 1.86 ERA in three starts, fanning a big-league record 32 batters in that time. If he doesn't beat the Kansas City Royals on Thursday, it would register as something of a mild shock.
He'll likely be pitching in front of another large crowd; the Nationals have already sold more than 30,000 tickets for the 4:35 start, and a strong walk-up could push the businessman's special to capacity, despite forecasts of temperatures only a couple ticks below Strasburg's fastball. It will be interesting to see how Strasburg handles the heat; he's fond of pointing out how he pitched in a variety of conditions in the far-flung Mountain West Conference in college. The first time I saw Strasburg pitch, it was in 90-degree heat last May in the MWC tournament in Fort Worth, Tex. He came out of that game with a back cramp. He also pitched in Arizona last fall, but the hot-and-humid conditions tomorrow will be more like what he faced in Texas.
In all likelihood, though, the conditions won't bother Strasburg. Nothing has so far. And the Nationals expect him to go out, deliver a sweep and send them on to a series with the Orioles on a roll. They saw the corollary to that in Strasburg's first three outings, when they handed the rookie three losing streaks. He stopped two of them, and pitched well enough to end the third, had the Nationals scored enough runs to lift him to the win last Saturday against the White Sox. But now they need him to keep them on a roll.
They follow that series with 13 games against the four teams with the National League's four best records entering Tuesday night (the Braves, Mets, Padres and Giants). The Nationals could use five wins against the Royals and Orioles. They've already got two, and with Strasburg, they expect to get to three.