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Running Blog For Stephen Strasburg’s First MLB Start

Tonight, it's for reals, son. For real? For real reals

The time has come. The phenom has arrived. It’s obvious that he was ready for the big time and his first start is tonight.

Tonight, the major leagues will get formally introduced to Mike Stanton.

Oh, and this Steven Strausberg nobody.

But as hyped as I am for Stanton’s first MLB game, I think there’s something special with this pitcher, so I’m going to be writing a running blog for his game instead.

The best thing about Strasburg’s first start is that it finally provides a stopping point for these endless previews and buzz. As soon as he delivers that first pitch (fastball, high for ball one, I think), it’ll just be all about baseball.

3:45 p.m. The best take on Strasburg’s first start has come from one of his opponents tonight, Pirates outfielder Delwyn Young. Young, a busted Dodgers draft pick who is batting fifth tonight and playing right field, was asked about facing Strasburg and his response is absolutely classic.

3.48 p.m. By the way, here are tonight’s lineups. Outside of McCutchen and Jones, there aren’t a lot of threats to a pitcher of Strasburg’s talent.

3:49 p.m. Since everyone wants to compare Strasburg to every other big-name pitcher when they made their first starts, NBC put up a pretty nice slideshow consisting of 20 of today’s best pitchers and how they on their first time out.

One thing of note: Only Jimenez, Gallardo and Wainwright threw more than six innings among that group. I would expect no more than that tonight.

3:54 p.m. Most expect him to dominate against such a weak lineup, but I would like to know how many of you would like to see him relatively fail. You know, something like five runs and eight hits with only four strikeouts in five innings.

It’s happened before (look at Tim Lincecum’s first start). But at home against a lineup hitting .237, it’s a hard sell.

3:56 p.m. I’m watching this game on MLB Network. When they had the camera on Strasburg as he began his walk out to the bullpen for his warm-up pitches, you could see him looking into the upper decks and privately smirking. He knows how big he is right now.

4:00 p.m. Listening to Bob Costas present all of Strasburg’s outstanding numbers just makes me roll my eyes. You know how much of that doesn’t matter at this league? All of it. Just ask Luke Hochevar from 2008 and 2009.

4:01 p.m. Holy Jesus, look at that crowd!

4:04 p.m. And Stephen Strasburg takes the mound. His warm-up pitches have already been named the best of any pitcher since Walter Johnson.

4:06 p.m. Fastball at 97 MPH starts us off. That ball will be found in the Hall of Fame.

Launch

4:06 p.m. First two pitches go in and out, off of the plate, but the third pitch leads to Strasburg’s first out: A hard line drive to shortstop.

4:07 p.m. Strasburg shows us his curve for the first time to Neil Walker and hits 99 on the gun twice in the at bat. But, on the first two hitters, he’s run the count to 2-0 and 3-1. He’s obviously just a bit amped. And why shouldn’t he be? He’s only expected to bail out the city of Washington D.C.

4:09 p.m. Hahahahaha!! Lastings Milledge has absolutely no chance against Strasburg

99-MPH fastball on the inside corner.

Stomach-twisting curve falls in for a strike.

Changeup falls off the earth for a swinging strike three. Remember when Milledge used to be the game’s hottest deal a few years ago? Yeah, well he just got worked over, big time.

4:13 p.m. Good luck, Jeff Karstens. Seriously, is there anyone in this game with less pressure on him than Karstens? Can’t say that often about a starting pitcher.

4:14 p.m. The Nationals’ former big deal before Strasburg, Ryan Zimmerman, gives his boy some run support with a solo shot to right-center field. Zimmerman is becoming one of the game’s best at homering to the opposite field.

4:15 p.m. Then, Adam Dunn, is used to hitting balls about 400+ feet, goes the opposite way as well. As in, completely opposite from a home run. He clunks it about 30 feet to end the bottom of the first.

If this game keeps up this pace, I should have no problem in watching the entire Lakers-Celtics game.

4:17 p.m. I’m sure I just jinxed myself.

4:17 p.m. Seriously, I am more wired for this game than I have been at any point during the NBA playoffs. Stephen Strasburg seems to have that effect on people.

4:18 p.m. Strasburg falls behind Garrett Jones 3-0 with a few fastballs and then comes right back with some 97- and 99-MPH gas. 3-2 … Jones is about three hours late on a 99-MPH heater. Good times.

4:20 p.m. I don’t know if it’s my TV or the Nationals red uniforms, but Strasburg looks like he’s been bathing in the sun for the past week. He is burnt red.

4:21 p.m. Strasburg gives us exactly what he is made of in his last two pitches to Delwyn Young: 100-MPH fastball that brings the crowd to its feet and then an 83-MPH curve that almost hit Young in his back foot, but he swung over it.

4:22 p.m. BREAKING NEWS: ANDY LaROCHE OWNS STEPHEN STRASBURG!! OWWWWWWWWWWNS!

LaRoche singles on a line drive to right. That ball should go to the Hall of Fame, too. But it won’t.

4:24 p.m. Strasburg Ks Ronny Cedeno on a changeup. He struck out the side. I’m gonna guess that won’t be the last time we say that about him tonight. The Pirates are buckling on his curve, waving at his change and way, waaaaaaay behind his fastball. But, I guess we shouldn’t have expected much more.

4:28 p.m. Milledge took a rather awkward route on that ball, but nothing he does is very by-the-book.

4:29 p.m. Since the show is off stage while the Nationals are batting, allow me to interrupt this game and comment quickly on another. Mike Stanton reached on an infield single in his first MLB at bat. TOP THAT, STEVE!!

How many Mike Stanton jokes will be made about Mike Stanton in the next couple of years? 30,000?

4:32 p.m. To those you who are commenting (Padrick, thank you very much), I can’t read your comments on this screen. For some reason, that box won’t open and this blog will also not allow me to write tags for this post. I’ve been trying to fix it for the past couple of hours, but no budge.

However, I can at least see what you are saying through my e-mail. I just can’t respond to it here.

4:34 p.m. Whatever. The Nats’ second inning is over. Strasburg back to the bump. First pitch? How about a curve to start the third. Just sayin’.

4:36 p.m. Right now, Strasburg is on pace for 90 pitches through six. That would sound about right.

4:37 p.m. A fastball stars the at bat, but the ending is just the same. Another K on a vicious curve.

4:38 p.m. And now here comes the pitcher, Karstens, to hit. Talk about unfair. Half of this lineup can’t touch him and they get paid to hit!

Oh, and Karstens goes down swinging.

4:39 p.m. Ryan Zimmerman does a little glove-to-bare-hand juggling act to record the last out of the inning. That was pretty cool in itself and had nothing to do with Strasburg

4:40 p.m. It’s still early, but when you look at how overmatched these hitters are, how Stephen is locating all of his stuff and getting strikeouts in strings, we’re going to have to start thinking about where this ranks among those who lived up to the hype (and then some) in their pitching debuts in the modern era, at least.

4:43 p.m. The Pirates really tried to give Stephen a hit there, but he couldn’t care less. Yeah, if he had run with desire, he would have beaten that busted play out. But so what? Get him off the bases and get him prepared for his next inning. That’s all that matters.

4:45 p.m. Yeah, that’s a hit for Nyjer Morgan, but you can see how the Pirates have the third-lowest fielding percentage. With Strasburg, the third baseman or shortstop didn’t know who was going to get the ball. Then with Morgan, that ball really should be at least stopped by the second baseman.

4:49 p.m. As Bob Costas points out, the Pittsburgh Pirates are not very good when it comes to high draft picks. Jameson Taillon is probably a tad worried.

Also, how is Pedro Alvarez doing down in the minors?

4:53 p.m. Neil Walker singles to right on a curve to start the fourth inning and that is followed up by a single by Milledge. Two on with nobody out. Finally, we’ve got a baseball game on our hands.

4:55 p.m. In this fourth inning, as Strasburg has now worked through the lineup in full once, you kind of feel the game settling down. The pace is a little slower, the crowd is a little quieter. We wanted to see him throw, now we want to see him really pitch in different situations.

4:57 p.m. Also, let me point out that Ivan Rodriguez has done a superb job of framing pitches tonight. But that’s not a surprise.

4:58 p.m. Garrett Jones breaks his bat and grounds into a 6-4-3 double play. Suddenly, first and second with no one out is now a man on third with two outs.

The blemish. Honestly, this was like THE only negative from his start

4:59 p.m. OH, THAT’S IT! STRASBURG IS FINISHED!! HE GAVE UP A TWO-RUN HOMER TO DELWYN YOUNG!!! TRADE HIM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The pitch looked like a decent changeup that I didn’t think had a chance of getting out, but it cleared the right field scoreboard and landed in the first row. It’s now, yes, 2-1 … Pirates?!

5:01 p.m. Delwyn Young did a nice job of backing up his “couldn’t care less” smack. Right now, he has Stephen Strasburg on the losing end of a 2-1 score.

5:02 p.m. Strasburg has thrown 56 pitches through four innings. This is normally a bad pace for a baseball game for me. I like long, three-hour contests. But given that the Lakers game starts in an hour, I’m all for quick outs right now.

5:02 p.m. Dunn singles through the shift and into right field to begin the bottom of the fourth. Let’s see if the Nationals can put up some offense to back their rook.

5:04 p.m. You can’t assume a double play, but Garrett Jones should have been able to scoop that ball for a double play. Instead, it’s just a 5-4 fielder’s choice.

Also, Josh Willingham almost got caught making the turn at first base and not getting back, but he stepped back on the bag  just in time.

5:07 p.m. Ivan Rodriguez tries to do anything to get his bat on the ball during a hit-and-run play, and he actually hits it in the perfect spot to put runners on the corners.

Roger Bernadina lines out to Milledge in left, Willingham tries to test his arm and he is thrown out by 10 feet. There’s your double play! A bit unconventional, but Jones is bailed out as the inning ends. We are going to the top of the fifth.

5:10 p.m. Ronnie Cedeno strikes out again, blown away by a 99-MPH fastball. He can now say he was the first person to strike out twice in one game against Stephen Strasburg. And no one can take that away from him!

5:14 p.m. A soft ground out and another strikeout of the pitcher — Ronnie was still the first! — ends the inning. Strasburg now has eight Ks through five. And probably one inning left in this debut.

5:15 p.m. He hit 99 on that last strikeout, so he obviously has plenty left. But he is now up to 70 pitches. His limit will be 90, but I think the Nats will take him out after six even if his pitch count is between 80-85.

5:17 p.m. I think it’s worth nothing that of those 20 pitchers in that link I posted earlier, only three won their first start. Fourteen had to settle for a no decision.

5:19 p.m. Christian Guzman — or Chris-tee-on Guzman as Costas said — doubles down the right-field line with two outs. Displaying Strasburg-esque hustle, he barely beat the throw.

5:24 p.m. Strasburg starts the sixth with a 97-MPH fastball and an 82-MPH curve, both for strikes. I think he’s good to go.

Two pitches later, McCutchen fishes for the changeup and misses. No. 9.

5:26 p.m. Neil Walker gets the good morning, good afternoon, good night treatment from Strasburg. He Ks on three pitches. The third one being a 99-MPH fastball around collar high.

5:27 p.m. Milledge can’t check up on another changeup and Strasburg strikes out the side again. That’s 11 for the game! Mark Prior had 10 in his debut. It’s not a record, but it is freaking ridiculous.

5:29 p.m. That’s 81 pitches through six. I think he’s done, but what about this: Why not send him back out there, try to get one or two more outs and then let him get the ovation he deserves from these fans who have been waiting for this night since almost a year ago? Let the fans show him how much they appreciate him. It would be quiet a moment.

5:44 p.m. Don’t you just love it when your Internet craps out for no reason?? Just fantastic.

Let me just get some quick points out to catch up on the last 10 minutes …

Bob Costas brought up the fan appreciation suggestion seconds after I typed it. Great minds …

The Nationals knew that the bottom of the sixth may be their last inning to make Strasburg the pitcher of record. And Dunn and Willingham did something with it. …

I am going to estimate that Dunn’s blast traveled about 430 feet. It was quite a shot. …

Then Willingham went back-to-back with a healthy homer to left. …

Jim Kaat said that homer by Willingham will probably lead to Strasburg’s exit. Why?? He has room for error now. I say bring him back out for two hitters. If either one of them reaches, take him out. If he embarrasses strikes out retires both of them, take him out. Let the fans shower him with praise. …

We shouldn’t forget that Jeff Karstens was pretty damn good tonight.

5:44 p.m. AND HE IS BACK OUT FOR ONE MORE GO!

5:46 p.m. Again, I say two hitters at most. If one of them reaches, take him out.

5:47 p.m. I think we are going to see one more 100 right here.

5:47 p.m. He gets to 99 on Jones at 1-2, but he fouls it off.

5:49 p.m. Another curve brings Strasburg’s total to 12 Ks! Ridiculous. It’s really a shame that I just happen to be facing him this week in my fantasy baseball league.

5:49 p.m. Ninety-one pitches? No problem! 99-MPH fastball gets by Young. That’s 13 and six in a row and seven of the last eight!!

5:50 p.m. Bob Costas taunts Andy LaRoche’s dad and then Stephen Strasburg strikes him out on three pitches!!!

CURVEBALL LOOKING, WITH KNEES TEARING.

CURVEBALL SWUNG AT AND MISSED BY THREE FEET.

FASTBALL AT 99 BLOWS LaROCHE AWAY!!!!

WHAT CAN YOU SAY, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN???

5:53 p.m. Willie Harris pinch-hits for Strasburg to lead off the bottom of the seventh. And so it ends, oh so gleefully.

5:54 p.m. Now here is hoping that Matt Capps doesn’t blow this lead if he is given a save chance. He has been rough lately.

5:54 p.m. As Strasburg is now out, I can kind of finish this up, which is nice because we’re about 10 minutes from tip in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

But what can you say? It’s an historic performance, better than anything we could have imagined. He was supposed to have a 100-MPH fastball, a true 12-to-6 curveball and a devastating changeup. And that’s what we saw, with the impeccable control included. Given the coverage and the hype and the expectations, this is the best debut of any starting pitcher that I can remember. It is probably in the top-5 of all time, at least.

5:59 p.m. Next up: @ the Cleveland Indians, Sunday, 1 p.m. Eastern Time. Good luck, Tribe. You’re going to need lots of it from what we all saw tonight.

6:00 p.m. I’ll have more to say on this later, but I am wrapping up this running blog now. Please continue to read here tonight as I present a running blog of Game 3 of the NBA Finals. It’s the post right before this one.

Viva Strasburg!

Not too shabby, kid

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  1. June 8, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    The Nationals have given Strasburg a commanding 1-0 lead off of Zimmerman’s blast.

  2. June 8, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    He blows it past Jones.

    It was behind him as he swung. Just crazy, man.

  3. June 8, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    Holy shit. That curve was disgusting.

    Dis. Gus. Ting.

    Get. the. fuck. out.

  4. June 8, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    To be fair, it is the Pirates, but COME ON.

    This is awesome.

  5. June 8, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    Eleven. Strikeouts.

    ELEVEN.

    In six innings.

    Eighty pitches.

    What. The. Shit.

    I might be hyping him just a little too much.

  6. June 8, 2010 at 5:38 pm

    The ovation would be the only reason to keep him in, I think.

    I will be interested to see the rest of his outings for the season, but looks as good as advertised.

    And this comes on the heels of the Nationals drafting Harper.

    I can see Scott Boras rubbing his hands in excitement right now.

    Boras: “Did you see how good my boy Strasburg was out there? Well this kid Harper is JUST LIKE THAT BUT BETTER. Hand over the money.”

    Was. GM: *sigh “All right, here you go.”

    *writes check for a billion dollar signing bonus.

  7. June 8, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    He gets 14 strikeouts.

    Seven innings.

    No walks.

    Two runs.

    What, five hits?

    Holy balls this kid is really something special. Making grown men look like fools.

    And hitting 99 in the seventh like IT WAS NOTHING!

    The Washington Nationals have a message to the National League, and that message is as follows:

    Fuck. Yo’. League.

    FUCKYOLEAGUE.

  8. June 8, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    After resting for about two hours, this is what I have:

    He misses inside-out a little more than you would like. Against a patient lineup — maybe like the Phillies — I think he runs into a little bit of trouble there.

    He doesn’t seem to have a problem coming back from all being behind in counts, though, so that is a plus.

    You have to wonder how much an outing like this plays into the mind of a coming opponent.

    Maybe with a touted opponent, if you see him rattled, you aren’t intimidated for his next time out. But even with that home run he allowed — which I thought was a good pitch that Young just had a perfect swing on — he didn’t look like he was ever worried.

    He even looked pissed after a couple of strikeouts when pitches weren’t where he wanted them to be.

    I think we saw the beginning of something beautiful. The arm angle, the control of both fastballs, that fucking curveball, and then the changeup that he can drop in there.

    It is a devastating arsenal, to be sure.

    • spokes310
      June 8, 2010 at 10:38 pm

      He is already so confident, I don’t think he’ll be rattled by a big opponent, but look at the teams on the Nats’ schedule from now until the All-Star break: Cleveland, White Sox, Kansas City, Baltimore, Atlanta, Mets, San Diego, San Francisco. There should be a lot of trouble there. They go to Cincy for four the week after the break and Philly comes into town at the end of the month. That should present a challenge.

      I want to put this into terms of history, but this is without precedent. With that performance, the hype, the repertoire, it’s incomparable.

      Everything we are saying is really still too much too soon because it’s just one start against a bad team. But if we are supposed to go off of what we’ve seen, he should be the best pitcher in baseball by the start of 2012.

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