It’s not very often that the reality lives up to the hype. In fact, in sports, it’s usually the opposite. Things are usually hyped to death, then the event is a major letdown. But last night in our great capitol we witnessed actual greatness.
The event not only lived up to the hype but actually somehow surpassed it.
After what seemed like an entire season of waiting, we finally got to see Stephen Strasburg pitch his first game for the Washington Nationals.
Strasburg has spent the first third of this season tearing up the minor league for the Nationals’ affiliates. There, he amassed a very impressive, if not amazing set of stats: 7-2 in 11 starts with a 1.30 ERA, 65 strikeouts and 13 walks in 55 1/3 innings. At one point, he only gave up 4 hits to 59 batters. That’s pure dominance.
And this is after he completely dominated the college circuit while at San Diego State. His record there his senior year: 13-1 with 1.32 ERA 195 strikeouts and 19 walks in 15 games with one no-hitter with 23 strikeouts. A pitch machine couldn’t do better.
His first major league challenge: The Pittsburgh Pirates. True, they may last in the NL in batting average (.236) and last in runs scored (189), 2nd from the bottom in slugging (.667), and even 3rd from the bottom in HR (43). But they are still a major league team.
And Strasburg treated them like he was still facing a Triple A affiliate. How does 4 hits, 2 earned runs, (1 HR), 14 strikeouts, and 0 walks in 7 innings grab you? Yeah, 14 strikeouts in 14 innings, and he struck out 9 of the last 10 and the last 7 batters he faced. You think he was in a groove?
To further the idea that he surpassed the hype, check this out:
In the last 50 years, the only other pitcher to strike out at least 10 without walking a batter in his debut was Johnny Cueto in 2008. (courtesy of ESPN)
Since 1900, only five other pitchers have had a 14-strikeout, zero-walk game in any game, at any time in their careers, in which they went seven innings or less. Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Mike Mussina, Brad Penny, and Javier Vazquez. Pretty nice company. (courtesy of Elias Sports Bureau)
Strasburg also has the most strikeouts in his major league debut since Houston’s J.R. Richards had 15 back in 1971. And only one other pitcher in history even has that many in his debut, and that’s Karl Spooner back in ’54.
OK, he’s off to a phenomenal start. So, what is he going to do next? His next game will be against the Cleveland Indians on Sunday, June 13th. Ticket sales have soared in Cleveland, selling upwards of 1000 tickets in the past 24 hours with news of his appearance on Sunday.
This will give the Indians’ sagging attendance (just over 15,000 per game) a much needed boost, at least for this one game.
If Strasburg keeps this up, he’ll not only be great for the Nationals (their first sell-out crowd last night), but good for every stadium the team visits as well.
By the way, the Baseball Hall of Fame has already requested a piece of memorabilia from last night’s game, whatever the Nationals or Strasburg felt like donating.
Stand by folks. In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re in for something pretty special here.