The first foray into 2013 Interleague Play for the White Sox and Nationals kicks off on Tuesday when Jake Peavy and Gio Gonzalez look to build off impressive first starts.
It's also the first leg of a mammoth 10-game road trip for the White Sox that includes series against the Nationals, Indians and Blue Jays -- three teams that each figure to have a say in their respective division races.
"It's going to be long," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "Again, you're going to play tough teams and our first time out on the road, but it's just one of those, it's on the schedule -- get ready for it. We've had a nice little run at home. Going out on the road is going to be interesting to see how we play on the road."
Indeed, the White Sox began 2013 on a strong note -- winning their first two against the visiting Royals before taking two of three against Seattle. Washington swept the rebuilding Marlins in three games at home to begin the season before dropping two of three in Cincinnati over the weekend. First pitch Tuesday night at Nationals Park is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET after both teams have a day off on Monday.
Gonzalez looks to pick up where he left off after a breakout 2012 campaign that ended with him finishing third in the National League Cy Young voting.
He had a particularly strong season debut, tossing six scoreless innings against Miami while also hitting his second career home run. In doing so, he helped the Nationals become just the 13th team since 1900 to open a season with two consecutive shutout victories.
"With the stuff they've got, it's pretty special, and it doesn't surprise me at all one bit," catcher Kurt Suzuki said about the pitching staff's impressive start to the year. "You look at the bullpen, too, it's tough."
Chicago also has a tough starting pitcher in Peavy, who tossed six innings in his 2013 debut against the Royals. He scattered one earned run and four hits, while striking out six and walking none. Against the Nationals, he'll be tasked with taking the hill and stepping up to the plate.
"Getting on the road is always fun," Peavy said. "At the same time, we're going to face some pretty good baseball teams. Going to Washington, facing the pitching we're going to face, and then ending the trip with four in Toronto. We all know what they have there. The biggest thing is coming out of this road trip with our head above water, not letting things get away from us and having a bad road trip."
White Sox: Grab a bat
Ventura said his pitchers began swinging earlier than they normally would because Interleague games are spread throughout the course of the season.
"Jake's probably the most excited for it," Ventura said. "It's weird for us, but the pitchers, they kind of get excited to get a helmet and bat. Hopefully, they do well."
The skipper said he doesn't keep a close eye on his pitchers when they're working in the cage, but is leery of them running the bases when they're not accustomed to doing so at this point in the season.
"I think everything, just doing something they're not accustomed to doing. They're not normally bunting or swinging the bat or running the bases, sliding, any of that kind of stuff that's different," Ventura said. "You see them as pitchers and they can get injured just pitching, what they normally do all the time. When they're doing something they're not use to, there's concern always."
Nationals: No sophomore slump early
• Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper has picked up where he left off after his 2012 NL Rookie of the Year campaign, hitting .360 through the first six games. He has a hit in five of Washington's six games, and got two hits in four of them. He also has scored five runs.
• Suzuki, who is splitting time behind the plate with Wilson Ramos, went 3-for-4 on Sunday against the Reds to boost his season batting average to .333 (3-for-9).
• Washington was outscored, 27-10, in three games against the Reds over the weekend.
• Peavy said the White Sox players were looking forward to getting out of town Sunday afternoon, getting to see Monday's men's NCAA championship game and getting some rest at the start of the road trip.
"Plane flights are always fun, we'll do a lot of bonding on the airplanes, at the hotels in different rooms," he said. "It will be good for us."
Joey Nowak is a reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.