WASHINGTON - JUNE 08: Stephen Strasburg #37 of the Washington Nationals pitches against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Nationals Park on June 8, 2010 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Over-hyped? Are you kidding? Stephen Strasburg went beyond the hype -- and anyone's reasonable expectations -- by striking out 14 batters in his electric Major League debut.
Washington, D.C., has not had a baseball team with a winning record since 1969. Granted, it didn't have a team for three decades in the middle of that stretch, but, still, it's been a long time since baseball fans in our nation's capitol have had something to cheer about. Tuesday night, that changed in a big way.
Strasburg, the kid who went undrafted out of West Hills High School just four years ago, made his Major League debut for the Nationals in front of a sellout crowd in Washington. His seven-inning, 14-strikeout performance was seen by plenty of eyes in his hometown, as well. At local sports bars, about 70 percent of the televisions were switched to the MLB Network broadcast of Strasburg's debut. Fans said they were interested to see if the local kid could live up to the hype.
"I can't remember the last time I was excited about a guy coming up from AAA," Mike Rocco said. "Definitely the most excited I've been for a single player."
With a standing-room-only crowd cheering every pitch, the Washington Nationals phenom put on a dazzling display of pitching power Tuesday night in a 5-2 win over Pittsburgh. His fastballs reached 100 mph, and the Pirates found his nasty curves nearly impossible to hit.
Last year's No. 1 overall draft pick -- the one with the record $15.1 million contract -- threw his first pitch 97 mph and got stronger as the game progressed. He struck out the last seven batters he faced, and all nine Pirates in the starting lineup fanned at least once.
The consensus in San Diego was that Strasburg more than exceeded lofty expectations, and fans here were proud to have another San Diegan finding success on the national sporting stage.
The ace's strikout total puts him in second for a Major League debut, behind several players tied with 15, including Bob Feller (Cleveland Indians), who debuted in 1936 at age 17; as well as the Brooklyn Dodgers' Karl Spooner in 1954; and J.R. Richard, who took the mound for the Astros on Sept. 5, 1971.