I have tried to manage expectations and protect myself and you dear readers from irrational exuberance regarding Strasburg. Now that I have seen him live, I see the folly of that errand. Even with The Maryland Bureau Chief suggesting that it was kind of the Washington Nationals to have Strasburg face a minor league team in his Nationals Park debut. For the record, TMBC is a Western Pennsylvania native, who aligns himself with the teams that reside there, however reluctantly in the baseball sense.
It took Strasburg 7 innings to smash the Nats single game strikeout record. After six innings #37 had retired 11 Pittsburgh Pirates via the strikeout, including four in a row. In the 7th inning, Strasburg struck out three in an inning for the third time of the evening and finished with 14 strikeouts, second most ever in a MLB debut. He gave up four hits including a two run homer by Delwyn Young in the 4th which was promptly thrown back onto the field. No Bucs reached base via the walk either and the Nats played a clean game in the field. In all, 94 pitches were thrown by Strasburg, 65 for strikes.
More numbers tell the tale — 100 and 81 m.p.h. Those were the fastest and slowest pitches he threw. While he may not have thrown pitches in that exact sequence with that much difference back to back, he easily took of at least 15 m.p.h between some pitches. His changeup was 91 m.p.h. — the top fastball speed of some of the members of the Nats rotation. Others can’t even reach those digits.
Aside from the home run he gave up, Strasburg did not run out a ground ball; chances are he could have legged it out. However, we’ll forgive him and thank the 3-4-5 hitters, Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham for homering. Zimmerman opened the evening’s scoring with a centerfield shot in the first. Dunn and Willingham were back to back in the 6th to reclaim the lead. An insurance run came on a double-play ball that Ivan Rodriguez hit in the 7th inning. Tyler Clipard and Matt Capps handled the final two innings. Capps recorded his 19th save of the season with a 1-2-3 ninth. Jeff Karstens took the loss for the Pirates.
It was a great night in Natstown, 78° (its always like that Stevie!) and the full house was wonderful too. Just a fantastic night in SE.
For his bravura performance, Strasburg was awarded the “Silver Elvis wig” and several shaving cream pies.
May there be many more.