Wednesday, June 9, 2010 12:30pm
By Miss Chatter
Heading to NatsTown yesterday, I think I had some sympathetic anxiety for Stephen Strasburg before his MLB debut. Stomach in knots and head spinning from the mass quantity of stories ravenously consumed and hype leading up the 7:05 pm first pitch left me frazzled. What if he got shelled? What if he lived up to the hype? Would the mania end after he finally debuted? I tried to go in with no expectations, and I guess I had nothing to worry about as the kid closed the game down not long after the sun had set for the night, fanning 14 Pirates before his seven innings were up for a Nationals record in one game. Um, wow.
Those questions seem to have been answered on a night when Strasburg never even looked at the scouting reports before facing his first nine major league batters (if you want to count the pitcher). Luckily for him, catcher Pudge Rodriguez was activated from the disabled list just prior to the game, and with his veteran knowledge called every pitch. Strasburg trusted him. That trust worked well for the duo and the night couldn't have been scripted better from the weather to the 2 hours 19 minutes sprint of a game that left my head still spinning.
The crowd roared the second Strasburg stepped on the field for his warmup routine and again when he removed his warmup sweatshirt to reveal the 37 on his jersey. Roars erupted again and again every time he pitched to strike two in the count. Waves of fans burst up from their seats with every strikeout, the first against the boo'd former National, Lastings Milledge in the first inning. The energy held on until the final out was closed out by Matt Capps in the top of the 9th after the Nationals offense gave Strasburg the lead in the bottom of the 6th with home runs from both Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham.
If there was anything to be disappointed about, the fact that Strasburg was hitless in his two at bats may be the only point to nitpick, and that's obviously nothing. He hit well in the minor leagues, so the thought that he would get his first major league hit in his pitching debut was something to wonder at. He has to save something for next time to wow the crowd again, I suppose.
Bets were placed beforehand on whether or not Strasburg would pitch 5, 6, or maybe even 7 innings. I figured five given the pitch limit and debut pressures, and stuck with that when his turn to bat was up in the bottom of the 5th. So fans were delightfully surprised when he came out for not only the 6th, but the 7th as well, pitching quickly and economically for a total of 94 pitches. I didn't expect Riggleman to leave him out there for even close to 100 pitches.
So what happens now? I don't think the mania will end anytime soon and I don't even know what the young phenom could do next to top his debut. Pitch a complete game shutout? Perfect game? Okay, that's getting a little crazy, I know. He wore the silver Elvis wig with a prideful face covered in shaving cream pies smothered on him by both John Lannan and Scott Olsen while the fans who lingered along the first base side chanted "Steph-en Stras-burg, Steph-en Stras-burg". Welcome to The Show kid, we're glad to have you! The fruition of the plan is finally evident to fans who have been hungry for a reason to fill the park, stand up and make some some noise together.