Nationals savior Stephen Strasburg lived up to the hype and then some in his debut Tuesday night. And what hype it was.
It started on the walk nearing the Metro. It continued down the escalator, at the ticket gates and in the trains. Washington D.C., the city which had been waiting for baseball since 1972 when the Senators, now the Texas Rangers left, finally had something to truly buzz about.
The 21 year-old phenom delivered with 14 strikeouts in seven innings. No, that’s not a typo, he threw 14, a Nationals franchise record for a single game. That is the second most all-time for an MLB debut. And this was just his debut?
The only blemish in the performance, which fittingly resulted in Strasburg’s first win of his career, was the two-run home run he gave up in the 3rd inning. Outside of that inning, the rookie was flawless, giving up only five hits. Of his 94 pitches, 65 were strikes. He had no walks.
The Nationals mustered enough offense in the bottom of the 6th inning to provide Strasburg with a win instead of a no decision.
Now we understand why everyone said he was ready from the get-go to pitch in the Majors.
Fans were stunned, excited and ecstatic that the proclaimed future of the Nationals franchise (Bryce Harper excluded), so far, was everything he was said to be.
Metrorail, D.C.’s subway system, was filled to the brim with Nationals gear. Hats, shirts, uniforms, you name it. A steady stream of red, white and blue walked the path together from the station to the stadium, meeting the rest of the 40,000 that packed into Nationals Park.
Much like being at a Capitals game, where you’ll find a sea of #8 jerseys, the majority of the jerseys at Nationals Park read “37 Strasburg”. D.C. had accepted the youngster as one of their own before he had even thrown his first pitch.
It’s not hard to understand of course, seeing as the 2000’s was one of the worst decades ever for Washington sports. The city needed someone other than Ovechkin and the Capitals to believe in.
As the innings went by, and as Strasburg racked up strikeout after strikeout, the sea of Strasburg apparel grew.
The 7th inning was the kicker, however. Strasburg blew by all three batters and, on the count of two strikes on Andy LaRoche, the entire stadium, every single fan, all 40,000 rose to their feet. Strasburg gave the crowd what they wanted and struck LaRoche out swinging. At that point, pandemonium ensued at Nationals Park which cheers lasting nearly all throughout the pre-inning warm up. Fans in the upper deck began a “Ste-phen Stras-Burg” chant which immediately spread throughout the stadium.
The atmosphere was simply unbelievable.
When Strasburg left after the 7th, he was given a standing ovation. At the end of the game he received three pies during interviews and was given an Elvis wig. At least for the night, he was, The King.
The walk back to the Metro was full of friendliness and excitement. Strasburg’s performance was so incredible that it did not dawn on almost anyone that they’d soon be packing into the trains like sardines. Waiting for an Orange Line, a man ran down the platform yelling “Ste-phen Stras-burg” drawing applause from the fans.
It was a great night for baseball in D.C.
The city has a new stadium, a competitive team and now, a superstar in the making. Stephen Strasburg. Welcome to Washington.
“Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Washington Nationals – Box Score – June 08, 2010”, ESPN