One of the biggest pitching prospects in Major League history made his debut Tuesday night, and Nationals fans are hoping it is a sign of things to come. Stephen Strasburg, who was the #1 overall draft pick in 2009, picked up his first major league win against Pittsburgh, throwing a mind-boggling 14 strikeouts over seven innings and, ahem, no walks, in a 5-2 victory.
Good thing, since the Nats paid a record $15.1 million dollars for a four-year contract with Strasburg, the highest ever for a draft pick. He also set a Nationals record for strikeouts in a game. The highly-anticipated debut garnered a standing room-only crowd at Nationals Park, which hardly ever happens because the Nationals kind of suck.
This was a Really Big Deal for the franchise, which Bob Costas told everyone multiple times while calling the game, because dude knows hyperbole and theatrical spectacle from his work during the Olympics and loves to bring it out in baseball. It’s totally insane how he can simultaneously talk about hype while hyping someone. How meta. That’s why he’s the best. Or something.
ANYWAY, The Nats trailed the Pirates, 2-1, heading into the bottom of the sixth, when Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham hit back-to-back homers, giving Washington the lead and putting Strasburg in line for the win. Washington let Strasburg come back in for the 7th, despite surpassing his 90 pitch count, where he struck out all three Pirate batters. It was straight nasty to watch Strasburg in action; he’s got hundred-MPH fastballs and clocked a 92 MPH change-up AND a crazy curveball. Sports theatre at its finest.
That being said, it’s just one game. Strasburg responded well to the hype and set the bar incredibly high. It will be interesting to see whether his dominance will translate into longevity and success in the league. I’ll be watching.