Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Game 59: Pirates at Nats

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
A standing-room only crowd files into Nationals Park.
After all the hype, the anticipation, the circus-like atmosphere, the moment has finally arrived.

As I type this, Stephen Strasburg is playing catch in right field. He'll be heading into the bullpen shortly to begin his full warm-ups. And then we're off and running, and Strasburg is no longer about hype but actual, on-field results in the major leagues.

This stadium has been buzzing since mid-afternoon. The press box is packed to the gills. The entryway to the center-field gates is backed up onto Half Street. Clint is interviewing Ken Burns on the Jumbotron. What has this world come to?

All I can say is, enjoy this for what it is: A once-in-a-lifetime event, taking place right here in our town and in our ballpark. I don't know how it's all going to end up by night's end, but I think one way or the other, we'll be talking about this one for years to come.

Check back for updates throughout, and if you're awake early tomorrow morning, be sure to tune in to ESPN 980. I'll be co-hosting a two-hour, post-Strasburg special show with Andy Pollin from 6-8 a.m. (assuming I can stay awake). Should be fun...

PIRATES at NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m.
TV: MASN2-HD, MLB Network (outside D.C./Pittsburgh)
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Partly cloudy, 77 degrees, Wind 8 mph LF to RF
STARTING LINEUPS
NATIONALS (27-31)
2B Cristian Guzman
CF Nyjer Morgan
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
LF Josh Willingham
C Ivan Rodriguez
RF Roger Bernadina
SS Ian Desmond
P Stephen Strasburg

PIRATES (23-34)
CF Andrew McCutchen
2B Neil Walker
LF Lastings Milledge
1B Garrett Jones
RF Delwyn Young
3B Andy LaRoche
SS Ronny Cedeno
C Jason Jaramillo
P Jeff Karstens

7:05 p.m. -- First pitch of Stephen Strasburg's career: a 97-mph fastball inside to Andrew McCutchen for ball one. Flashbulbs aplenty. Boos from the crowd.

7:10 p.m. -- The bad: Strasburg fell behind his first two batters 2-0, drawing boos from the crowd. The good: He rebounded from both to retire the side without a ball leaving the infield. Andrew McCutchen (the Pirates' best hitter) smoked a line drive but right at Ian Desmond. Neil Walker grounded a 99 mph fastball to first base for the second out. And then the highlight: Lastings Milledge struck out on three pitches: a 99 mph fastball, an 82 mph curveball and then an 83 mph curveball that left the crowd roaring. 11 pitches, 6 strikes.

7:14 p.m. -- And Strasburg will take the mound for the second inning holding a 1-0 lead, thanks to Ryan Zimmerman. Zim launched an 0-1 breaking ball from Jeff Karstens over the out-of-town scoreboard for his 12th homer of the season. Crowd roars again. Quite a scene here.

7:25 p.m. -- Everyone in the park is officially hooked on Strasburg. Struck out the side in the second, with a two-out singly by Andy LaRoche (on a 100 mph fastball) sandwiched in there. He hit 100 twice, drawing a huge roar from the crowd. The slurve, though, is what really has everyone oohing and ahhing. Through two innings, 30 pitches, 18 strikes.

7:33 p.m. -- It almost like the crowd gets into a lull when the Nats bat, as if they just want it to end quickly so Strasburg can retake the mound.

7:39 p.m. -- Another 1-2-3 inning, with two more strikeouts. The Pirates look helpless against him, especially against the offspeed stuff (the slurve and the changeup). Through three innings, he's allowed the one opposite-field single and that's it. Six strikeouts. Forty pitches, 25 strikes. Good efficiency.

7:59 p.m. -- Uh-oh. Delwyn Young takes a 1-0 changeup from Strasburg deep to right-center for a two-run homer. Wasn't a bad pitch, down and away, but Young got a piece of it and sent it flying. Just like that, the Nats trail 2-1 in the middle of the fourth. 56 pitches for Strasburg, 34 strikes.

8:01 p.m. -- Tom wins the Presidents Race, a wild affair that included both the Pittsburgh Pierogies and the Not-Really Milwaukee Sausages. Teddy, as always, remains winless.

8:08 p.m. -- OK, when's the last time you remember Lastings Milledge making a throw that good to the plate? Ever? Still 2-1 Bucs after four.

8:14 p.m. -- So that prediction earlier today about Strasburg not being a strikeout pitcher? Yeah, I whiffed at that one like Ronny Cedeno at a Strasburg heater. That's 8 K's through five after another 1-2-3 inning. Total line to this point: 5 ip, 4 h, 2 er, 0 bb, 8 k. 70 pitches, 44 strikes. Figure he probably gets one more inning.

8:21 p.m. -- Strasburg can be as good as he wants. If his teammates can't score more than one run off Jeff Karstens, the Nats are in trouble. Despite six hits in five innings off the Pirates starter, they've got only Zim's solo homer to show for it. They're now 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position. Still 2-1 Bucs, and Strasburg is back out for what is likely his final inning, the sixth.

8:28 p.m. -- Man, oh man. Struck out the side in the sixth with ease. He's at only 81 pitches through six, having struck out 11. In his big-league debut. Unreal. Gotta figure he goes back out for the seventh, maybe comes out after a couple batters to a standing ovation. Nats still trail, though, 2-1.

8:34 p.m. -- And thanks to Adam Dunn, Strasburg will have a chance to go for the win. Two-run bomb into the second deck in right off a Karstens fastball. Nats lead 3-2 in the bottom of the sixth.

8:35 p.m. - Make it 4-2 after Willingham homers himself, knocking Karstens out. Still no bullpen action, so Strasburg will come back out with a chance at the win.

8:44 p.m. -- He's coming back out for the seventh. Drew Storen was warming, though, at the end of the sixth. Figure as soon as Strasburg puts someone on base, he's done and gets to leave to a standing O.

8:53 p.m. -- I don't think we will ever see anything like this again. He struck out the side in the seventh. Struck out seven in a row, 14 overall. The ballpark was going absolutely nuts with each of his pitches. Willie Harris now pinch-hitting to lead off the bottom of the seventh, so Strasburg's debut is done. What a debut: 7 ip, 4 h, 2 er, 0 bb, 14 k, 94 pitches, 65 strikes. He just struck out more batters than any other pitcher in the Nationals' 5-plus-year history. Wow.

9:07 p.m. -- Tonight's paid attendance: 40,315. a sellout, but not a ballpark record.

9:09 p.m. -- According to The Sporting News record book, the most strikeouts ever in an MLB debut are 15, set in 1971 by J.R. Richard and in 1954 by Karl Spooner. So Strasburg came up one short. About the only thing he failed to do tonight.

9:17 p.m. -- We go to the ninth. Matt Capps trots out to the strains of The Final Countdown. Guess the song is back after those blown saves. Would be a nice time for him to get back on track. 5-2 Nats.

9:24 p.m. -- That'll do it. Nats win 5-2. Strasburg gets the win on top of the admiration of the entire universe. Capps gets the save. Zim, Dunn and Hammer all homer. You could not have scripted this any better.

51 comments:

waddu eye no said...

Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

(i'm too old to be this silly, but so what)

Uncle Atom said...

Yea baby, bye bye Lastings! First ML strikeout for Big Train 2.o, that's sweet!!!

Smatt1001 said...

My thoughts exactly Atom

HabsProf said...

Were either of the first two outs hard hit balls? I'm thinking in particular of McCutchen's lineout.

Smatt1001 said...

And a Zimmerman homer to follow it up.

Anonymous said...

That second pitch to Milledge was the slurve that Mark referred to, I take it?

Janner33 said...

@HabsProf... McCuthen's lineout was pretty well smoked, but right at Desmond. The second out was to Dunn

HabsProf said...

He fell behind the first hitter this inning, but he's been ahead on the count ever since.

Nats fan in NJ said...

Have I died and gone to heaven?

Uncle Atom said...

Six Ks already!

HabsProf said...

I've heard so much about the kid's breaking stuff, but the reality is sooooo much more. Filthy. Truly, truly filthy. For all the well-justified hype about the speed, movement, and control he has with his 2- and 4-seamers, his curve is his best pitch.

Sacramento said...

It's like he's still pitching in AAA. Oh wait, they're playing the Pirates...

LoveDaNats said...

And I think the boos were for the umps,

A DC Wonk said...

That last pitch (striking out Karstens). . . it said 101 on the little scoreboard thing on TV, but 99 on nationals.com-gameday . . .

Smatt1001 said...

And we're up to 10 k's. Let's get some offense behind this

HabsProf said...

Just goes to show - it doesn't matter how many hits you get, it only matters how you string them together.

HabsProf said...

If the Nats can either tie it or take the lead, Strasburg's day is over.

Smatt1001 said...

And there go the bats. HR's from 3-4-5 in the lineup.

HabsProf said...

And just after I post, Dunn homers. I think you keep SS on the bench so he has a clear shot at his first win. They never wanted him to go beyond 85 pitches anyway.

If they send him out, Mark is right - it is for just one batter.

Uncle Atom said...

Dunn and The Hamma, B2B!! Seems like it's been a month since Dunn had an RBI

Nats fan in NJ said...

Ok, am I the only one freaked out by what just happened on MLB TV?

A DC Wonk said...

Finally! 3-4-5 all hitting in the same game . . .

And, hey, was that a professional bit of hitting or what? When Pudge slung his bat out in the hit-and-run?

HabsProf said...

Well, with at least a two run lead, I guess they will send him out for more. I still doubt he gets the entire inning unless he gets a couple of 1 or 2 pitch outs. I don't believe he ever threw 90 pitches in the minors, so why would they let him start now? Later in the season, yeah, but not now.

A DC Wonk said...

Did anybody else notice that when DeYoung hit that homer to right, that a fan threw the ball back onto the field? Awesome.

I wish Rob or Bob had noticed and said something about it.

swang said...

I think Riggs sent him out there so he can face Young again. Get back on the horse, so to speak.

HabsProf said...

@A DC Wonk: The MLB TV broadcast did mention that the Nats fans "rejected" the homer ball. At least one network noticed.

Uncle Atom said...

They've all whiffed now!!

Anonymous said...

Really!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

HabsProf said...

Despite all their pronouncements in advance about how he was on a strict pitch count, the Nats let him go the entire inning. I'm amazed (and I enjoyed watching the K's).

It seems that Nats management has succumbed to SS-mania like the rest of us.

A DC Wonk said...

Holy moley!! He's never gone this far in the majors, and what does he do? Strike out the last two guys on six pitches! 14K'd in 7 inn! Wow.

A DC Wonk said...

@HabsProf "@A DC Wonk: The MLB TV broadcast did mention that the Nats fans "rejected" the homer ball. At least one network noticed."

Hmmm . . . are you saying Bob Costas is better than the guys we have on MASN?

As far as pitch count, he threw 94 pitches . . . I think that's fine. Folks thought they would let him pitch more and get into the 90's

Wouldn't it be nice if Storen pitched two innings of shutout ball?

Uncle Atom said...

So does Riggs put Capps in for the ninth, or someone else? Why not put Storen out there tonight?

HabsProf said...

So do they let Clip go another, put in Storen, or bring on Capps?

@A DC Wonk: I personally didn't mind the 94 pitch count - its just that it is contrary to what they indicated before the game. Did they get swept away like the rest of us?

dj in Fl. said...

The critical stat... no base on balls
How many games have we lost because of the leadoff walk in an inning.
What an exhibition!

Dave said...

Quote of the night. . . Carp said "I think the radar gun read tilt"

Also amazing to hear how excited the guys are in the booth.

waddu eye no said...

strasgasm

Uncle Atom said...

Strasburgcalifragilsticexpealedocious! We'll take that curly W, time for a pie in the face!!!

swang said...

Ah, Mark,

I think you blanked out the bottom of the 8th. Were you taking pictures?

HabsProf said...

Mark: Methinks you are a little overwhelmed by The Debut - the Nats win 5-2, not 4-2. ;-)

Nice to see Capps back on track.

alexva said...

any chance he's ready to go again tomorrow

Smatt1001 said...

What a great debut game. I'm glad the offense showed up.

Jim Webster said...

I've seen a bit of baseball over the years (I was sports editor of the college paper when Bob Gibson pitched at Creighton in the 1950s) so I've tried all along to keep some sense of balance. Even watched SS give up 2 homers to Cardinals minor leaguers in Viera in March. But I gotta say tonight lived up to the hype. Nothing like it in the world. Finally, after 5 years, baseball is really back in Washington. Sorry, Redskins.

A DC Wonk said...

@HabsProf -- I could be wrong, but I thought I had heard Rizzo, or somebody, say that they were going to stretch him further when he got to the bigs -- and Dibble also mentioned that he'd go 90 or so pitches.

I noted: after the home run, he struck out 8 of the next 10 guys. Wow.

And, as someone else mentioned: no walks!

I told my wife that the first pitch would be a curve. I was wrong. But I just heard that Pudge said he also wanted the first pitch to be a curve, but Stras wanted a fastball.

dj in Fl. said...

amen Jim

JayB said...

Now that was a fun night at the ball park!

Mike said...

Mark, you cheated the Nats out of a run. The final score was 5 to 2.

Tony D said...

JayB tells the truth - GREAT NIGHT AT THE BALLPARK!!!

Dryw said...

Insanely great night at the ballpark! Mark, you're right, that one could not have been better had it been scripted!! Wow. Just wow.

nats rising said...

The start of a new nats tradition tonight - each time Strasburg gets to two strikes the entire stadium is up on its feet. Haven't had that much fun at a dc sports event since the 'skins "we want dallas' game.

meixler said...

I couldn't help but laugh with every strikeout. That was great!

Anonymous said...

You guys have alaready said it: stunning.

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