Not too long ago, only die-hard baseball fans regularly attended Nationals games. Other than showing up for marquee opponents or “event” happenings such as opening day, there hasn’t been much reason to visit 1500 South Capitol St. SE (or previously RFK Stadium).
Sure, in their first season here, the Nationals led the NL East at the all-star break (50-31). They stirred buzz by exceeding expectations, but reality set in the second half of the season: Washington finished in last place at 81-81.
Now, it’s no longer an oddity when the Nationals win. It’s becoming expected. Even with an offense that’s about as effective as the Secret Service is at contributing to foreign economies, the Nationals are in first place in the National League East. (Yes, we know it’s just the first week of May.)
With franchise player Ryan Zimmerman expected back from the disabled list next week and superstar-in-training Bryce Harper appearing very comfortable after making his major-league debut last week, the Nationals’ offense at least possesses the potential for improvement.
If the hyped-for-years Harper is rattled by the stage, he hasn’t shown it. His performance in Los Angeles last weekend screamed, “I’m here!”
Despite going hitless in his first game at Nats Park, Harper had another signature throw Tuesday. On Wednesday, Harper went 3 for 4, including two doubles that missed being home runs by inches, with a run batted in to help the Nationals end a losing streak at five games.
“You’ve got power pitchers that don’t automatically open him up with fastballs,” Rizzo said. “They pitch him like he’s an impact player — because he is an impact player.”
The Nationals need many to get where they’re trying to go. We’re about to find out how far along they already are.
For Jason Reid’s previous columns go to washingtonpost.com/reid