CLEVELAND -- Manny Acta maintains the Nationals did him a favor by firing him last July.

This weekend, the first-year Indians skipper can prove exactly that to the team that gave Acta his first Major League managing job.

  • 134 wins
  • 118 wins

"I'm grateful that I was able to manage there for 2 1/2 years, and I'm grateful they let me go so that I could come over here," said Acta, who went 158-252 in his tenure with the Nats. "That was my path in life. That was Lou Piniella's path in Tampa Bay. It's just part of the process. The average manager lasts 2 1/2 to three years on a rebuilding team.

"I have an attitude of gratitude."

The Tribe opens its second series of Interleague Play on Friday night at Progressive Field, but the most intriguing subplot of the three-game set comes Sunday afternoon, when flame-throwing rookie Stephen Strasburg makes his second career start for Washington in a "Sunday MLB on TBS" telecast.

"It's not every day that you see a guy with that type of stuff, so it will be a good challenge," Cleveland designated hitter Travis Hafner said. "There's certainly been a lot of media attention surrounding him."

Deservedly so. Strasburg collected 14 strikeouts without walking a batter over seven innings of two-run ball in his Major League debut Tuesday night.

The Indians host the Mets next week before concluding their 2010 Interleague slate with trips to Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Cincinnati. The Tribe dropped its first Interleague series of the season in a May 21-23 home set against the Reds, losing two out of three contests to the in-state rival. All three games were decided by three runs or fewer.

Cleveland will attempt to create some scoreboard separation against a Washington team that once included Indians outfielder Austin Kearns, who has emerged as a middle-of-the-order threat for the Tribe in 2010 with five home runs and 27 RBIs.

"I'm looking forward to seeing some of those guys who I still keep in touch with," said Kearns, who spent three-plus seasons in Washington before joining the Tribe. "I still talk to Adam [Dunn], Josh [Willingham], Ryan [Zimmerman] and Willie Harris some.

"I got to be there when Nationals Park opened [in 2008], but just playing with those guys is what I'll remember most about my time there. Other than that, it'll be just another game."

Indians closer Kerry Wood couldn't agree more.

"It's just another series for us," Wood said. "I'm sure there'll be some buzz on Sunday, which will be nice for our fans who come out to the ballpark. We're just trying to string some wins together right now."