Baseball: Strasburg strikes out 14 in remarkable debut

By Paul Hurst

steven strasburg

Steven Strasburg lived up to the hype when he made his much-awaited Major League debut on Tuesday night in front of a capacity crowd at Washington DC’s Nationals Park.

Facing the Pittsburgh Pirates, Strasburg picked up his first Major League victory, pitching seven innings, giving up just two runs on four hits with no walks. The figure that really made the headlines though was his 14 strikeouts.

The 21-year-old struck-out each member of the Bucs starting line-up at least once, and induced the crowd into an avalanche of noise as he struck-out the final seven batters he faced, before coming out of the game after the seventh.

His only real mistake came in the fourth inning when Delwyn Young took a change-up down the middle just over the right-field fence for a two-run home run.

This subdued the crowd slightly, not helped by the Nationals leaving runners on base. There was a sense for a while that Strasburg may have been on course for a tough loss, but after Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham put the Nationals ahead with a pair of back-to-back home runs, the noise level went up another notch.

Some of the stuff he was throwing at times was quite remarkable. Anyone who managed to see any of his minor league starts this season had an idea of what he was capable of, but seeing him replicate it at the Major League level in such a way was something special.

Strasburg lit up the radar gun at 101mph at times with his fastball, and threw 97-98mph with ease throughout his stint. His change-up reached over 90mph, and the break on his curve-ball was simply unhittable, regularly breaking more than a foot – the definition of a ‘knee-buckler’.

His outing lasted 95 pitched, 65 of which were strikes. Tyler Clippard replaced Strasburg for the eighth, before Matt Capps locked up the save in the ninth.

Strasburg was the first overall pick in the 2009 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. After extended negotiations, and much speculation over whether he would or wouldn’t sign, Strasburg signed a record-breaking four-year $15.1m deal with the Nationals.

Following the game last night, after receiving three traditional ‘shaving cream pies’ to the face during his live TV interview, Strasburg was presented with an over-sized silver Elvis-style wig, given by the team to the player they decide has been the day’s best player. The Nationals won by a scoreline of 5–2.

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