So much for that rough outing I predicted for Stephen Strasburg.
Strasburg made an extraordinary splash in his MLB debut tonight. The 21-year-old righthander struck out 14 batters over seven innings pitched giving the Washington Nationals a 5-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The only blemish against Strasburg was when he gave up a two run homerun to Pirates rightfielder Delwyn Young in the top of the fourth which gave the Bucs a 2-1 lead. But he didn't let that get him down. Strasburg then retired the final ten hitters he faced striking out eight of them. In fact, Strasburg struck out the final seven batters who came to the plate against him.
Perhaps even more remarkable than Strasburg's 14 strikeouts was that he did not walk a single batter. He knew what he wanted to do with the ball whether he threw a fastball, curveball, change up or slider. His curveball might be his best pitch. I'm not sure his curve is as good as Bert Blyleven or Doc Gooden's but it's good enough.
Strasburg also worked very fast. The game was completed in only two hours and nineteen minutes.
Washington got four of their five runs via the homerun. Ryan Zimmerman hit a solo homerun in the bottom of the first while Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham hit back to back homeruns in the bottom of the sixth to give the Nats the lead for good.
The other compelling story line this game was Nats closer Matt Capps. He came on in the ninth to nail down his NL leading 19th save. This had to be his most satisfying save of the year as it came against a club that unceremoniously declined to offer him a contract for the 2010 season. Capps was absolutely pumped especially after he crossed the first base bag to record the final out of the game.
Given Strasburg's magnificent debut the Nationals can expect more sell out crowds this season even if they don't climb out of the cellar in the NL East. In fact, this will also benefit other major league clubs when the Nats come visiting. Strasburg's next start is expected to come this Sunday at Progressive Field in Cleveland. The Tribe has the lowest average attendance in MLB.
An appearance by Strasburg could return baseball in Cleveland to the glory days of the mid to late 1990s when Jacobs Field (as it was then known) was sold out night after night - even if only for one night.
Even if the Washington Nationals finish in last place this is going to be one fun summer for Nats fans.