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WASHINGTON(AP) — Stephen Strasburg’s major league career startedwith a 97 mph fastball – and it didn’t take long for baseball’snewest wunderkind to start piling up strikeouts.
With speeds reaching 100 mph and nasty curveballs that seemedimpossible to hit, the Washington Nationals phenom struck outsix of his first nine batters Tuesday night against Pittsburghbefore a standing-room-only crowd.
Cameras flashed as Strasburg threw his first pitch – well insideto leadoff hitter Andrew McCutchen. Fans booed when umpire TomHallion called it a ball.
The day was nicknamed “Strasmus” – and it was the biggestbaseball event in the nation’s capital since the sport returnedin 2005 after a 33-year absence. To go real deep into history,one could argue that Strasburg had the most anticipatedWashington rookie pitching debut since Walter Johnson at thelong-forgotten American League Park on Aug. 2, 1907.
Strasburg was promoted after dominating the minors, going 7-2with a 1.30 ERA with 65 strikeouts and only 13 walks in 11starts in Double-A and Triple-A. His debut came nearly a year tothe day after he was drafted No. 1 overall, and one day afterthe Nationals – who have lost 100 games in back-to-back seasons- chose 17-year-old hitting sensation Bryce Harper with the No.1 overall selection in this year’s draft.
Strasburg is a low-key kid in a high-hype world, a focused21-year-old whose fastball is much more lively than his newsconferences. he quietly went about his business preparing totake the mound, fiddling with his glove a few hours before thegame at his new locker, located between those of Wil Nieves andJ.D. Martin.
Washington sold out Nationals Park for only the second time allseason, and they sold an extra 2,000 standing-room-only ticketsa few hours before the game. Fans cheered when Strasburg emergedfrom the dugout at 6:24 p.m. with pitching coach Steve McCatty.Surrounding by photographers and cameramen, Strasburg grinned atMcCatty and said, “Let’s go.”
Strasburg used the center-field wall to do some stretching andthen warmed up in the bullpen, where fans stood six-deep towatch. he received a standing ovation when he walked back to thedugout after the national anthem, and it was a funny moment whenMcCatty – not Strasburg – doffed his cap to acknowledge thecheers.
Among those in the crowd was Strasburg’s coach at San DiegoState, Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn.
Manager Jim Riggleman said Strasburg was pitching with strictlimits and would likely throw no more than 90 pitches. Askedwhat he told the rookie before the game, the manager said heasked Strasburg the distance to home plate in the minors.
When Strasburg answered 60 feet, 6 inches, Riggleman said:“You’ve got a good chance – because that’s what it is here,too.”
Behind the plate for Strasburg’s debut was veteran Ivan Rodriguez, who happened to be activated from the 15-day disabledlist in time for the game.
“He knows what day it is,” Riggleman said.
Data provided by Stats LLC.
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