Much has been made of the Nationals' best-in-baseball road record, which following an 8-2 trip through Houston, Arizona and San Francisco now stands at 41-23. That's a better road winning percentage, by far, than any team in the majors has at home, a stunning fact when you stop and think about it.
One point, however, hasn't been made about the Nationals' prowess away from the District: They've played more road games than anybody in the sport.
Which also means they've played the fewest home games, which could prove quite the advantage as the final stretch of a remarkable season fast approaches.
Indeed, 27 of the Nationals' final 44 games are scheduled to be played on South Capitol Street, a nice little bonus for a club that already has done everything it can to position itself for a postseason berth.
Based on what we've seen over the last 4 12 months, the Nationals are perfectly comfortable playing wherever they are instructed to play. And certainly they aren't going to take for granted all these home games down the stretch.
But as the final leg of the regular season arrives, we are about to find out just what type of environment the Nationals (and everyone else in the sport) can expect from a town that hasn't experienced a pennant race in three generations.
Interest and attention in this team has progressively increased since Opening Day. Overall, the Nationals are averaging just under 30,000 fans per game, which ranks 14th among MLB's 30 clubs.
But the numbers keep getting larger. Over their last 33 home dates, the Nats are drawing an average crowd of 33,053. That's a 32 percent increase from this point last season.
There's every reason to believe those numbers will continue to climb. A six-game homestand against the Mets and Braves would typically draw well regardless. But with the Nationals returning home from the best road trip in club history and holding a four-game lead in the NL East, there's all the more reason for attendance to swell. The same theory should hold true later this month when the Cardinals and Cubs come to town.
It's no secret the Nationals' fan base is growing. MLB announced this week local television ratings are up 67 percent this season, the largest increase in the sport. There's been ample opportunity to watch this team on TV because so many games have been played on the road.
Now, though, the Nationals are gearing up for 27 home games in 48 days. The ballpark should be as electric as its ever been in its five years of existence.
This is when a team and its following establish its true identity, when the bond between players and fans grows and everybody lives and dies with each pitch. It may reach a crescendo sometime in late-September or early-October, when the outcome of every game really matters. And if all goes well, it reaches an entire new level after that.
What will that identity look and feel like? We don't know. Barely anyone in this town has experienced something like this before. It will have to develop organically over the next six weeks.
The process begins tonight. And for those who have waited a lifetime for this, it's not a moment too soon.