A Strasburg Style Diary
Follow the live diary from Nationals Park all day as Stephen Strasburg makes his Major League Debut.
10:00 a.m.: If you just stumbled out of a cave this morning, Stephen Strasburg is making his Major League debut tonight. He needs no introduction and if you want to read his story, Google his name and you will get 8,130,000 results in 0.21 seconds. Alex Rodriguez registered 6,650,000 results in 0.24 seconds.
1 minute later: Can you imagine what the 8,130,000th item is about? I wish there was a way to find out. I don’t think it is possible though. It would take a year to scroll through them all yet it took 0.21 seconds for Google. I am guessing it is about Strasburg, VA.
Debuts in 2010: This is arguably the most hyped and anticipated debut since the inception of the Draft–granted it has never been easier to create hype in the age of instant access, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook but Nationals President Stan Kasten said he has never seen this type of anticipation ever before. People have recorded every breath he has taken since he was discovered in San Diego/San Strasburg. Speaking of Major League debuts… Drew Storen, Luis Atilano and Jesse English all made their Major League debuts for the Nationals this season too.
As of today, 69 players have made their Major League debuts this season. Mike Leake was the first player from the 2009 draft class to make it to The Show. He pitched 6.2 innings and gave up one run on four hits and seven walks against the Cubs on April 11. He also collected two hits at the plate.
“I didn’t have any jitters,” Leake said after the game. He gave up a hit and issued two walks before recording an out. He eventually got out of the base loaded jam unharmed in the first inning. “I was just trying to do too much and I was pulling the ball. Seven walks is a little much.”
Seven walks is a little too much but it was memorable enough that he jokingly requested for the seventh-walk ball. I am guessing he never got it.
11:42: Strasburg’s start today will conclude an eventful calendar year: if last year’s draft was New Years day, today is New Years Eve… so it is only fitting that there will be quite a celebration tonight. He was drafted on June 9, 2009, signed less than two minutes before the midnight signing deadline in August, pitched in the Arizona Fall League, got married in January, attended his first Major League Spring Training, made a rapid accent through the Minor League system and now he has arrived at his final destination where his journey is just beginning.
Side bet: Blogs all over the internet are predicting Strasburg’s final line. Yes, you can even bet on the first pitch: ball (+120) or strike (-150)? The over/under for strikeouts is 5.5, total pitches is 90.5 and innings pitched is 6.
12:05: There is a countdown on ESPN: 6 hours, 54 minutes and 12 seconds to first pitch.
12:59: Silver Spring resident Spencer Patton was the first person to buy a standing room only ticket. He was the person who got all the glory–and by glory I mean he was interviewed by ABC 7–but in actuality he wasn’t the first person in line. His friend started the line in front of the Box Office at 7:30 a.m. Patton got there around nine–it just proves the late bird gets the worm and Strasburg tickets too.
1:31: “I want to wait here just so I can see the reaction of the first person who doesn’t get tickets,” someone said.
1:32: He thought about it for about a minute. “I am not that mean.”
1:35: Everyone who waited in line was able to get tickets.
1:40: Why buy a $10 standing room only ticket when you can wait three more hours and get a $5 ticket that comes with a seat.
3:20: In my brief search to find the person who traveled the farthest to witness Stephen Strasburg, I found Tom from Houston, Texas. Hopefully, we can find someone who came from a different country just for this game. “It is going to be crazy here,” he said. I stopped counting after the third time he said it but I agreed each time. Never before has a Nats-Bucs game garnered World-Series-like coverage in June.
3:31: Drew Storen passed through the media gauntlet on the field. Every time he was done with one interview, there was another camera waiting for him just so they could ask him questions about the one and only, Stephen Strasburg.
“He’s got a great personality–it’s just that he’s a very low-key guy,” Storen said yesterday. “And it’s not what you’d expect out of a guy like that. You expect a big-time talent to have a big-time personality and be this real outspoken guy, and he’s far from that. He’s a guy that will ask anybody questions and is willing to learn from anybody, and that’s the key to his success. … He’s got a different type personality than I do, but he’s got the right personality for the position he’s in.”
3:39: After about the fifth interview, it looked like he was going to turn down his first interview ever. He looked up at the clock in centerfield, noticed he still had five minutes before he had to stretch and said, “All right, one more.” He has never met a microphone he didn’t like.
3:46: The Baseball Tonight guys are here. GM Mike Rizzo, Ryan Zimmerman and Nyjer Morgan all found themselves on the set.
3:55: Harold Reynolds from the MLB Network is playing flip with the Nats players. He didn’t win but he did break a nice sweat.
4:01: There is a media circus around Jim Riggleman for his pregame press conference.
4:12: Morgan just wanted his picture taken… so we took it. He is a pretty scary guy… not.
4:13: Willie Harris felt excluded so he joined.
4:30: The gates are open.
4:32: Strasburg’s first Major League Lineups:
McCutchen – CF
Walker – 2B
Milledge – LF
Jones – 1B
Young – RF
LaRoche – 3B
Cedeno – SS
Jaramillo – C
Karstens – P
Guzman – 2B
Morgan – CF
Zimmerman – 3B
Dunn – 1B
Willingham – LF
Rodriguez – C
Bernadina – RF
Desmond – SS
Strasburg – P
6:03: Zimmerman appeared on the MLB Network and they asked what he is going to say to Strasburg before his first pitch when he gives him the ball after it goes around the horn. Plain and simple: “Throw it 100 or everyone will be pissed,” Zim said with a laugh.
6:05: Uni Watch–We won’t focus on the apparel tonight but there are countless people sporting Strasburg T-shirt jerseys and I just saw someone wearing a Tour de France jersey. Wrong sport and colors buddy.
6:15: “I have never seen anything that mirrors this,” GM Mike Rizzo said. “It really feels like a World Series like atmosphere.”
6:38: The Nats sold 2,000 standing room only tickets. I’m guessing this will be the largest crowd at Nationals Park… besting the previous record of 41,985 set on June 25, 2009 against Boston. There is a big difference tonight though. On June 25 there were about 20,000 Red Sox fans and that is a conservative estimate. Tonight, there might be 10 Pirates fans–I have only seen four.
6:39: It just occurred to me why there are so many fans tonight… Lastings Milledge is back in town.
6:41: You really couldn’t ask for better weather tonight–76 degrees, partly cloudy with a light wind. As they say at Nationals Park, it is a b-e-a-utiful night in NatsTown.
6:42: Strasburg just entered the bullpen. People are lining the railings, leaning over the edge just to get a look at his bullpen session. I attempted to count the number of cameras trying to get a picture of him… but it was a hopeless endeavor.
6:57: So much for people coming to watch Millege. He was booed by fans as the announcer read off Pirates lineup.
7:00: Five minutes to first pitch. Wow. Strasburg received a standing ovation as he walked from the bullpen to dugout. Pitching Coach Steve McCatty tipped his cap. Strasburg’s stony stare that could have scared a shark finally cracked and he smiled. Actually, he began to laugh and unsuccessfully tried to cover it up. I don’t know what that did for his heart beat but it must be pounding.
7:04: The fans still haven’t taken their seats. I don’t expect them to sit down before the first out.
7:06: First Pitch. 97 mph fastball. Ball one. Cameras flashed like Barry Bonds was about to hit his 756th home run.
7:06: First Major League out on his third Major League pitch–a 98 mph fastball. Andrew McCutchen lined out to Ian Desmond.
7:08: Pitch eight–a 99-mph fastball–got Walked to ground out to Dunn. Two down.
7:09: Welcome back Lastings. Strasburg sat him down in three pitches: a 99-mph fastball called strike, 82-mph curveball for a called strike two and a 83-mph curveball strike three swinging.
7:14: How. Far. Will. It. Go? Ryan Zimmerman home run. Nats lead 1-0.
7:19: He started 3-0 to Garrett Jones, then threw three straight fastballs, striking him out on a 99-mph fastball.
7:21: It’s amazing. After each pitch, the crowd either groans or cheers. You can follow the ups and downs of this game without even laying your eyes on the field.
7:21: Strikeout number three, 83-mph curveball under the arms of Young.
7:22: Andy LaRouche hit a 100 mph fastball for Strasburg’s first hit. It’s also Strasburg’s first 100 mph pitch tonight.
7:24: Three outs. Strikeout number four. Through two innings, Strasburg has thrown 30 pitches, 18 for strikes. No runs.
7:29: The sight of Lastings Milledge chasing Pudge’s hit down the foul line has everyone cheering.
7:37: Strikeout number five. An 83-mph curveball catches Jaramillo looking.
7:39: Strikeout number six. This has become the K count and it’s not fair. He blew away opposing pitcher Jeff Karstens with a 98-mph fastball. Why do pitchers hit?
7:41: Once again, cameras are flashing and a standing as Strasburg walks to the plate. Fans apparently think he’s Barry Bonds with the bat.
7:43: Strasburg proved he may be at least partially human as he grounded out to short.
7:54: Pudge took a trip to the mound after Strasburg surrendered two straight hits to Walker and Milledge.
7:57: Jones worked the count full after starting 0-2, then hit into a 6-4-3 double play.
7:58: Strasburg made his first mistake–a hanging change-up–and Delwyn Young hit a two-run homer.
Seconds later: A fan threw back the home run ball that Young hit. Dunn picked it up and threw it to a ball boy in the dugout. There’s a good chance Strasburg will be seeing that ball later.
7:59: Strasburg recovers and gets the final out on the very next pitch.
8:06: The Nationals execute the perfect hit and run. Pudge hits right to the second base hole.
8:10: Strikeout number seven for Strasburg.
8:13: Strikeout number eight on a 99-mph fastball right down the plate. Sorry, Kastens. You’ve proved again why pitchers should not hit.
8:24: Strikeout number nine–a 91-mph change-up to McCutchen
8:26: Strikeout number ten–a 99-mph fastball upstairs. He’s thrown 78 pitches and recorded ten strikeouts. That’s efficiency.
8:27: He strikes out Milledge on a checked swing in the dirt. That’s three strikeouts in just over three minutes. The K count is now at 11. The last time a Nats pitcher stuck out this many in one game was September 21, 2008, when Odalis Perez struck out 11 Padres. The most strikeouts collected by any Nationals pitcher since the move to Washington is 13. John Patterson did it on August 4, 2005, against the Dodgers, and then completed the same feat on April 15 of the following year at the Marlins.
8:33: Two-run home run for Adam Dunn to the upper deck–second row of section 239. This place is rockin’ like Game 7. There can never be too many World Series references in this post.
8:35: It’s hammer time! Willingham hits one to the opponent’s bullpen for back-to-back home runs.
8:37: I don’t know how many people are here for the first time, but I’ve run into quite a few. I asked three girls what all the commotion was about and they responded that some guy named “Strawzzzzburger or something” was pitching.
8:43: The girls found their way to the All-Star balloting location. They filled out their ballot and got a free Nationals T-shirt.
8:48: Strikeout number 12 to Garrett Jones. This is five straight strikeouts.
8:49: The whole stadium erupts as Strasburg strikes out his 13th batter, sixth straight batter.
8:50: Everyone is on their feet. Literally everyone. Except for me. I’m sitting down so I can type.
8:51: Make that seven straight batters. Strasburg just broke the record for most K’s as a National, 2005-present. It looks like he’s pitching to high school batters. Well, then again, they are the Pirates.
8:53: Willie Harris bats for Strasburg. Strasburg’s final line: seven innings, two runs, two earned, four hits, 14 K’s, zero walks and one home run. He threw 94 pitches, 65 for strikes.
8:59: Strasburg ends his night by emerging from the bullpen long enough to tip his hat to the fans who are wildly cheering.
9:00: Nyjer Morgan salutes the fans at center field. He thinks he may have something to do with the wild cheering.
9:21: It’s the final countdownnnnnnnnn…
9:22: Capps records the 17th strikeout for the Nationals, tying the team record (2005-present) set on April 17, 2008. But those Nationals pitchers needed 13.2 innings to accumulate the 17 K’s.
9:25: Capps picks up his league-leading 19th save and Strasburg picks up his first Major League win.
9:29: Strasburg gets the inevitable pie to the face from pie master, John Lannan. Lannan has been looking forward to this moment since last June.
Seconds later: Scott Olsen gives him the towel to wipe off, but then pies him again, as Nyjer Morgan drops the Elvis wig on his head. It’s like helping someone get up only to throw them back down again. Congrats, Player of the Game and welcome to the Big Leagues.
9:30: The Park begins chanting “Ste-phen Stras-burg!” The expectations laid on Stephen Strasburg tonight seemed unreasonably high, yet he still managed to exceed them. Drew Storen said when Strasburg went from Double-A to Triple-A he took his game to the next level and he couldn’t wait to see what Strasburg would do when he finally made it to the Majors. Well, we just witnessed Strasburg raising the bar yet again.
9:44: “I thought I was going to be a lot more nervous than I really was,” Strasburg said.
9:45: “I’ve caught a lot of guys, but this guy is unbelievable,” Pudge said.
9:50: “The only thing I really remember was the first pitch, and the ball was inside,” Strasburg said. ”Everything else is such a blur. At one point I even lost track of how many innings I had. … It’s kind of like getting married. You tell yourself you want to go out and remember everything. And once it’s done, you can’t remember anything.”