Friday, July 30, 2010

Washington Nationals' Ace's First Start

From True/Slant on June 9, 2010:

Strasburg-Mania Sweeps Through D.C.

94 pitches. In the end, that was what more than 40,000 fans queued up to see. 94 mostly great pitches from the biggest name in Washington baseball, one Mr. Stephen Strasburg, late of Harrisburg, now of the nation’s capital. It was quite the do, the most electric Nationals Park has ever seen.

The great bog of the east coast was already buzzing after the Nats drafted Sports Illustrated phenom Bryce Harper on Monday. Then, last night, they were treated to the much awaited debut of their own personal $15.1 million dollar man. I’m not sure he delivered $15.1 million dollars worth of delivering, but still, this has to be the best week the Nationals have ever had, from both a baseball and a publicity standpoint.

But back to the actual baseball. Strasburg’s four-seam fastball hit 99 mph with regularity, his sinkerball sunk, his changeup froze hitters like deer in the headlights, and the pitch he calls his slurveball, well, it slurved, I guess. His velocity was impressive. His control even more so. He had zero walks on the night. Yup. 14 strikeouts and 0 walks.

It was a wildly successful opening act wherein Strasburg struck out at least one Bucco in every single inning except the 4th. Lastings Milledge went down swinging in the 1st inning; Garrett Jones, Delwyn Young and Ronny Cedeno all went down swinging in the 2nd. Jaramillo was frozen with the bat on his shoulder for a called third strike in the 3rd and then the Pirates pitcher went down swinging, too. He got both Cedeno and Karstens again in the 5th. Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker and Milledge all went down helplessly flailing at Strasburg’s pitches in the 6th. Then he did the same to Jones, Young and Andy LaRoche in the 7th.

Strasburg struck out the last seven batters he faced, needing only 29 pitches to do so. Of those, 10 were swinging strikes (two fouls) and 10 were strikes that froze batters in the box, rendering them less mobile than Lot’s wife leaving Sodom. Sure, it was against the pitiful Pirates, so it all needs to be taken with some of that salt, but the fact is that as good as he looked in the early innings, he looked even better as the game wore on, which is the best news of all for Nats ownership, giving fans a reason to come to the ballpark. Once every five days, that is.

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