Strasburg sets Nationals record in debut

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Strasburg even nearly earned a hit in his first appearance at the plate in the bottom of the third, as a slow dribbler to short was just turned in time by Cedeno to get the pitcher at first.

Walker delivered a single to right to open the fourth inning, then Milledge delivered another single to the same spot to put Strasburg in his first jam. Strasburg then induced a bat-breaking double play to Jones thanks to a 96-mph fastball, but Young tagged Strasburg for his first home run allowed over the out-of-town scoreboard to put the Pirates in front, 2-1.

Washington threatened to tie the score in the bottom of the fourth, but Willingham was thrown out at home trying to score on a Roger Bernadina sac fly to left.

Strasburg opened the fifth by striking out Cedeno with a 99-mph fastball, then induced a ground ball to Jaramillo. He capped the inning by getting Karstens to strike out again to close the frame.

He got his second at-bat in the bottom of the fifth, but grounded out to short with one down in the frame. Cristian Guzman doubled down the right-field line, but Nyjer Morgan couldn’t keep the inning going.

McCutchen became Strasburg’s ninth strikeout victim to open the sixth, thanks to a 91-mph changeup. Walker followed by whiffing on a 99-mph fastball with two strikes. Milledge struck out to close the inning, giving Strasburg a 1-2-3 frame — with the last three outs comingby strikeout.

And, thanks to a single for Zimmerman followed up by Dunn’s 11th home run of the year, the Nationals erased the 2-1 deficit, putting their rookie in position to win his first-ever big league start. Willingham added an insurance run with his 11th homer, just the second time this year Washington has put together back-to-back home runs together.

Nationals manager Jim Riggleman left Strasburg in to start the seventh, and he struck out Jones open the frame. He then got Young with a 99-mph fastball, then notched his seventh straight strikeout by getting LaRoche before being lifted for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the seventh. Strasburg, who threw just 13 pitches in the three strikeouts, left to a loud ovation and then come out for a curtain call to acknowledge the large crowd — most of who came to see him.

The 14 strikeouts were the most of any Nationals pitcher, and also tied a season-high for any pitcher in MLB this season. He also became the first pitcher in baseball history to record 14 or more strikeouts while throwing less than 96 pitches. Strasburg ended the night with 94.

“The last three hitters, he was extremely overpowering,” Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said. “I saw Kerry [Wood] do that, you don’t get many of those.”

“It brought back memories of the 23-strikeout game at San Diego State,” Strasburg said. “I was going to throw the ball as hard as I can and put it where they weren’t swinging.”

Tyler Clippard and Matt Capps came in to close out the win, and closing out a memorable debut for the young right-hander. The team responded afterwards by giving him a couple of shaving-cream pies to the face during an interview in the dugout and then topping it off with the team’s trademark silver Elvis wig — given to the top player of the game.

“I’ve been catching a lot of guys,” Nationals catcher Ivan Rodriguez said. “This kid is unbelieveable. He throws strikes around the plate, always in the strike zone … He attacked the strike zone … He did great.”

“I really can’t put into words better than what you saw,” Riggleman said. “It was very exciting for everything on him for the last few days. For him to respond that way, it was a great moment for baseball in Washington.”

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About the Author
Ted Starkey

Ted Starkey

Ted Starkey, a Web editor for the continuous news desk, has written for and edited high-traffic websites, including AOL News, AOL Sports, FanHouse.com, USAHockey.com and BuffaloBills.com. He also has covered the 2002 and 2010 Winter Olympics, Stanley Cup playoffs, NFL, NHL, MLB and NCAA hockey during his career.

He is a graduate of American University, with a double major in ...

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