Strasburg's Debut Allows Fans to Believe the Hype

Posted by Dave Nichols | Wednesday, April 14, 2010 | , , , , | 0 comments »

by Anthony Amobi, Staff Writer

Last Sunday, many eyes from Nats Town – and beyond – were centered on Central Pennsylvania to witness the debut of Stephen Strasburg as a minor leaguer.

A huge crowd north of 7,800 fans, 76 media members, plus ESPN News and ESPN3 (formerly ESPN360) viewers got to see Strasburg light up the radar gun and show why maybe he should be in the majors – right now.

For the moment, though, he’s currently a member of Washington’s Double-A affiliate, the Harrisburg Senators.

On Sunday, the young hurler finally pitched in a ‘real’ game that counted.  He went five innings against an opponent trying to beat him, and allowed just four hits, four runs – only one earned – against the Altoona Curve. the Pittsburgh Pirates Double-A affiliate.  Strasburg struck out eight and walked two.

The Senators won the ballgame 6-4, thanks to a rally after Strasburg left the game.  Of course, no one will remember the score of Sunday’s game, weeks, months or years from now.

Despite baseball being a team game, pretty much every one – perhaps except the players on the field -- cared only about No. 37, 21-year-old Stephen Strasburg.

One could say his first professional start had its ups and downs; however, this statistic is even better -- he struck out eight batters while throwing a flaming fastball that reached 99 MPH at times, a changeup in the 89-91 range, and a devastating breaking ball in the low 80s.

Based on velocity readings alone, he’d flat out be the hardest throwing member of the Nationals pitching staff.

That’s sick.

Then again, he’s in the minors to learn the game and adjust to the demands of professional baseball.  He's in the minors as much for the bus rides as he is to work on his command. 

Seriously, how do you think Strasburg would have held up if he had to face the Phillies at Nationals Park in front of a hostile crowd on Opening Week?

Despite doing well on Sunday, he did face adversity as the Senators fell behind 4-0. Strasburg was shaky to begin with, but as the game went along, he made adjustments, worked out of trouble and began to make life difficult for the Curve.

In the first inning he gave up a double and single to consecutive batters for an eraned run, then walked the next hitter, before getting a swinging strikeout for the third out.

In the fourth, an error on a tailor-made ground ball and outfield throwing error led to three unearned runs.

Strasburg’s obvious gifts kept his team in the game, but more importantly, he battled to win.

Furthermore, despite not really attempting to hit at the plate in college as a member of the San Diego University Aztecs, he managed to rip a double to right field and score a run.

In addition to the hype surrounding Strasburg, another first round pick of Washington in the 2009 draft, reliever Drew Storen, also made his presence known as he collected a four-out save to preserve the Senators’ win.

Strasburg -- and Storen -- will be adorned in the Nationals’ red and a curly ‘W’cap soon – perhaps as early as late May or June.  These early games for Harrisburg are just first steps on a long road to perhaps an illustrious career.

Although the Nationals are not expected to contend in 2010, what took place in Altoona, Pennsylvania this past weekend perhaps could be a sign of things to come in the near future at Nationals Park.