After a nice, four-day respite, the Nationals are back to work tonight, opening a 10-game road trip through Florida, Cincinnati and Milwaukee that will serve as a significant test for this club.
That may explain, in part, why Jim Riggleman is going with Stephen Strasburg right out of the gate tonight against the Marlins. He's trying to set a positive tone as the season's second half begins, and who better than Strasburg to help make that happen?
This will be the kid's eighth career start, only his third on the road, and it figures to be the lowest-profile outing he's had yet. The Marlins, who draw some of the smallest crowds in the majors, are expecting about 25,000 at Sun Life Stadium. That's a pretty good gathering for them, but it will pale in comparison to Strasburg's previous starts. He's yet to pitch in front of a crowd smaller than 31,000.
This does raise a question, though: Is Strasburg-mania starting to die down? His last start (at home against the Giants) drew 34,723 to Nationals Park. It also drew the smallest media gathering yet for one of his outings.
We knew this wouldn't last forever. Eventually, the hype would have to diminish. Perhaps that inevitable decline has already begun.
So as I prepare to board my flight to Fort Lauderdale, I'll leave you with this topic for debate: Do you still look at every Strasburg start as a big event, or are these just like any other game in your mind?