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Nats phenom Strasburg K's 14, earns win in sizzling debut

CBSSports.com wire reports
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WASHINGTON -- Stephen Strasburg struck out 14 batters in his first game, took three shaving cream pies to the face, donned a silver Elvis wig -- then compared it all to getting married.

What could he possibly do for an encore?

Washington Nationals

Washington Nationals

Danny Knobler
Stephen Strasburg has a sizzling winning debut for the Nationals and looked better than advertised. Don't even think about calling this a fluke. Read more

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Baseball's newest wunderkind went beyond the hype -- and anyone's reasonable expectations -- with an electric and unprecedented major-league debut Tuesday night in the Washington Nationals' 5-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

"I've been catching a lot of guys," said likely Hall of Famer Ivan Rodriguez, patting Strasburg on the left shoulder, "but this kid is unbelievable."

With a standing-room-only crowd roaring at every chance, last year's No. 1 overall draft pick put on a dazzling display of power pitching. His fastballs reached 100 mph - and still had movement when they crossed the plate -- and his nasty curves were nearly impossible to hit.

The 21-year-old right-hander allowed four hits, two earned runs and didn't walk a batter, piling up the most strikeouts in a big-league debut since J.R. Richard fanned 15 for Houston in 1971. He was pulled for a pinch hitter after seven innings and took a quick curtain call.

After the final out, Strasburg was pelted with a shaving cream pie to the face courtesy of teammate John Lannan. The rookie was quickly handed a towel, but after wiping his face was blindsided by two more pies. Then someone crowned him with the goofy, oversized wig that's named after Elvis Presley -- a clubhouse ritual for whoever teammates choose as the player of the game.

"It's hard to talk with so much shaving cream on my head," Strasburg said. "I just wanted to go out there and say I've had my first outing in the big leagues. I've had a great time."

Strasburg always pitches in a hurry -- the game took only 2 hours, 19 minutes -- and plate umpire Tom Hallion even suggested to him that he slow down his warmups because the breaks between innings are longer in the majors.

Washington Nationals

Most K's in first MLB game

No.PitcherTeam vs. OppDate
15Karl Spooner BRK vs. NYG 9/22/1954
15J.R. Richard HOU at SF 9/5/1971
14Strasburg WSHn vs. PIT 6/8/2010
12Elmer Myers PHIa vs. WSHa 10/6/1915
12Steve Woodard MILa vs. TOR 7/28/1997
n-NL; a-AL

"The only thing I really remember is the first pitch -- ball inside -- everything else is just such a blur," Strasburg said. "At one point I lost track of how many innings I threw. I was like, 'You know what? I'm just going to go out there and have fun.' It's amazing.

"It's kind of like when you get married and everything, you kind of go into it wanting to remember everything -- and once it's done, you can't remember a single thing."

Strasburg should know. He was married in January. His family, gathered in the corner of the news conference room, joined in the laughter. When he left the podium, he gave hugs to all of them.

Strasburg got better as the game progressed, and the ballpark was near delirium when he struck out the side on 13 pitches in his final inning. He fanned the last seven batters he faced, and all nine Pirates in the starting lineup struck out at least once.

"It's never easy to hit 97 to 100 [mph]," said Andy LaRoche, Strasburg's final strikeout victim, "especially when he's got a curveball like that. It's the combination of the two. You can say, 'All right, here comes 100 right down the middle,' or 'Here comes the curveball,' and it's still tough to hit."

Karl Spooner also struck out 15 in his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1954. He and Richard are the only pitchers with more strikeouts than Strasburg in a major-league debut since 1920 -- and Spooner and Richard both had three walks.

Strasburg also tied Max Scherzer of the Detroit Tigers for most strikeouts in a game in the majors this season. Scherzer had 14 on May 30 against Oakland.

Strasburg left with a 4-2 lead. When it was announced that he had set a team record for strikeouts since the franchise's move to Washington in 2005, the crowd cheered again -- and Strasburg emerged to the top step of the dugout and tipped his cap.

"It's something I've never seen before," Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. "Usually you see it in basketball, in the NBA, stuff like that. Never in baseball. ... It's his game and a lot of people came out to watch him. He didn't really let them down."

The day was nicknamed "Strasmus" -- and it was the biggest baseball event in the nation's capital since the sport returned after a 33-year absence. To go real deep into history, one could argue that Strasburg had the most anticipated Washington rookie pitching debut since Walter Johnson at the long-forgotten American League Park on Aug. 2, 1907.

Strasburg threw 94 pitches -- roughly the limit imposed by management before the game - and 65 were strikes. He made one mistake, a 90 mph changeup golfed by Delwyn Young into the first row in right field for a two-run homer in the fourth inning. The ball would have made a great souvenir, but a fan threw it back onto the field.

The homer gave the Pirates a 2-1 lead, but the Nationals gave their rookie the win with three runs in the sixth. Adam Dunn hit a two-run homer, and Josh Willingham followed with a solo shot.

Tyler Clippard pitched the eighth and Matt Capps the ninth for his 19th save.

Zimmerman also homered for the Nationals, a solo shot in the first inning. All three of Washington's home runs came off Pirates starter Jeff Karstens (1-2).

Cameras flashed as Strasburg (1-0) threw his first pitch at 7:06 p.m. -- at 97 mph and well inside to leadoff hitter Andrew McCutchen. Fans booed when Hallion called it a ball. Rodriguez then handed the ball to the umpire and it was removed from play for posterity.

"I wanted to call a breaking ball," Rodriguez said. "He said no."

Strasburg was promoted after dominating the minors, going 7-2 with a 1.30 ERA, 65 strikeouts and only 13 walks in 11 starts in Double-A and Triple-A. His debut came nearly a year to the day after he was drafted No. 1 overall, and one day after the Nationals - who have lost 100 games in consecutive seasons -- chose 17-year-old hitting sensation Bryce Harper with the No. 1 overall selection in this year's draft.

Washington sold out Nationals Park for only the second time all season, and went through an extra 2,000 standing-room-only tickets a few hours before the game. Fans cheered when Strasburg emerged from the dugout at 6:24 p.m. with pitching coach Steve McCatty. Surrounded by photographers and cameramen, Strasburg grinned at McCatty and said, "Let's go."

Strasburg warmed up in the bullpen, where fans stood six-deep to watch. He received a standing ovation when he walked back to the dugout after the national anthem, and it was a funny scene when McCatty pretended the cheers were for him and doffed his cap.

Strasburg, who had been feeling the adrenaline since "about 2 o'clock," said the moment helped him relax.

"That kind of put a smile on my face," Strasburg said. "He made me laugh, and kept me loose."

Not that he needed much help.

"He pitched," Dunn said, "probably the best game I've ever seen pitched."

Notes

  • Pirates C Ryan Doumit was out with concussion-like symptoms. INF Bobby Crosby had a stomach virus. Doumit will likely miss two or three games, manager John Russell said.
  • RHP Brad Lincoln, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2006 draft, will make his major-league debut as the Pirates' starter Wednesday.
  • Among those in attendance was Strasburg's coach at San Diego State, Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn.
 
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
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Stephen Strasburg waves to a sell-out crowd following his dynamic debut on the Nationals' mound.  (US Presswire)
Stephen Strasburg waves to a sell-out crowd following his dynamic debut on the Nationals' mound. (US Presswire)

Players of the Game
Washington

S. Strasburg
IP 7.0
H 4
ER 2
BB 0
K 14
Pittsburgh

D. Young
AB 3
R 1
H 1
HR 1
RBI 2
 

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Pittsburgh Pirates
Andrew McCutchen, CF4000011 .306
Neil Walker, 2B4110020 .320
Lastings Milledge, LF4010020 .246
Garrett Jones, 1B4000021 .256
Delwyn Young, RF3112020 .241
Andy LaRoche, 3B3010010 .244
Ronny Cedeno, SS3010021 .242
Jason Jaramillo, C3000021 .182
Jeff Karstens, P2000020 .182
    Evan Meek, P0000000 .000
   a- Ryan Church, PH1000011 .200
    Javier Lopez, P0000000 .000
Totals31252017  
a-struck out for Meek in the 8th
Batting
HR - Delwyn Young (3, Strasburg)
RBI - Delwyn Young 2 (13)
2-OUT RBI - Delwyn Young 2 (8)
SB - Ronny Cedeno (6, 2nd base off Clippard/Rodriguez)
Team LOB - 2
Fielding
Outfield Assists - Lastings Milledge 1
DP - Milledge-Jaramillo, Walker-G. Jones
Pittsburgh Pirates
Jeff Karstens (L,1-2) 5944003 4.81
Evan Meek 2000010 0.78
Javier Lopez 1211100 1.96
Pitches-Strikes - Jeff Karstens 72-52, Evan Meek 22-18, Javier Lopez 10-6
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Jeff Karstens 10-4, Evan Meek 4-1, Javier Lopez 2-0
Batters Faced - Jeff Karstens 23, Evan Meek 6, Javier Lopez 5
Washington Nationals
Cristian Guzman, 2B4010000 .311
Nyjer Morgan, CF4010001 .258
Ryan Zimmerman, 3B4331001 .316
Adam Dunn, 1B4132000 .280
    Adam Kennedy, PR-1B0000000 .243
Josh Willingham, LF3111101 .278
Ivan Rodriguez, C4020000 .331
Roger Bernadina, RF4000004 .250
Ian Desmond, SS3000001 .273
Stephen Strasburg, P2000000 .000
   a- Willie Harris, PH1000010 .180
    Tyler Clippard, P00000001.000
    Matt Capps, P0000000 .000
Totals33511411  
a-struck out for Strasburg in the 7th
Batting
2B - Cristian Guzman (10, Karstens), Ivan Rodriguez (10, Karstens)
HR - Ryan Zimmerman (12, Karstens), Adam Dunn (11, Karstens), Josh Willingham (11, Karstens)
RBI - Ryan Zimmerman (33), Adam Dunn 2 (30), Josh Willingham (38)
2-OUT RBI - Ryan Zimmerman (16)
Team LOB - 5
Fielding
DP - Desmond-Guzman-Dunn
Washington Nationals
Stephen Strasburg (W,1-0) 74220141 2.57
Tyler Clippard (H,13) 1100020 1.62
Matt Capps (S,19) 1000010 3.49
Pitches-Strikes - Stephen Strasburg 94-65, Tyler Clippard 16-11, Matt Capps 10-7
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Stephen Strasburg 4-2, Matt Capps 2-0
Batters Faced - Stephen Strasburg 24, Tyler Clippard 4, Matt Capps 3
Game Information
Attendance - 40315
Game Time - 2:19
Temperature - 75
Umpires - Home - Tom Hallion, First Base - Ron Kulpa, Second Base - Lance Barksdale, Third Base - Ed Rapuano