WASHINGTON -- A year ago, almost to the day, Randy Johnson stood on the same mound, sat in the same interview room, answered some of the same questions.
And that night, after the 607th game of Johnson's career (and his 300th win), I wrote that the best thing you could say about Randy Johnson was that you never wanted to miss one of his starts.
One start into Stephen Strasburg's career, I'm writing the same thing.
If you saw this game, you can't wait to see the next one. If you didn't see it but caught the highlights, you won't miss the next one.
And the next one. And the one after that.
Does that mean Strasburg is on the way to 300 wins? I didn't say that. Is he headed for the Hall of Fame? I didn't say that, either.
But when he takes the mound Sunday against the Indians, you'll want to watch. Not because he's guaranteed to do what he did in Tuesday night's 5-2 Nationals win over the Pirates, but because he could.
He can strike out 14 -- and leave you feeling like he was just getting started. He can throw 99 mph -- on his 94th and final pitch of the night. He can throw a breaking ball and a changeup so devastating that Pirates shortstop Ronny Cedeno said his advice is that you'd better hit the fastball -- the 100 mph fastball.
Recap: Nationals 5, Pirates 2
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"He's pitched one game," Cedeno said. "But if he's going to keep going like that, he's got the stuff to be the best pitcher in the league."
Yes, just one game, one game against a Pirates team that features a Triple-A lineup (or, if you're in a kind mood, a Quadruple-A lineup).
Fine. How many other pitchers have struck out 14 Pirates this year? That would be none.
How many other pitchers have struck out 14 in a big-league debut? That would be none since 1971 (when J.R. Richard fanned 15).
How many other pitchers have struck out 14 for the Nationals? That, also, would be none.
Most K's in first MLB game
|No.||Pitcher||Team vs. Opp||Date|
|15||Karl Spooner||BRK vs. NYG||9/22/1954|
|15||J.R. Richard||HOU at SF||9/5/1971|
|14||Strasburg||WSHn vs. PIT||6/8/2010|
|12||Elmer Myers||PHIa vs. WSHa||10/6/1915|
|12||Steve Woodard||MILa vs. TOR||7/28/1997|
And how many pitchers brought excitement like this to a ballpark in their very first big-league game?
That, too, would be none.
"It felt like a World Series game," said Pudge Rodriguez, who has played in a few World Series games. "Pretty awesome."
It did feel like a World Series game -- but only for the seven innings that Strasburg pitched. It felt like a World Series game -- but only when Strasburg was on the mound.
It was all about him, and somehow he didn't get caught up in it.
"He had to have not turned on a TV the last week, not to be nervous," Nationals reliever Drew Storen said. "If I were him, I'd have probably been pacing around the clubhouse [before the game]. He was just sitting around watching Animal Planet.
"It was just like another day at work for him. This is the biggest game this kid has ever pitched. It's pretty unreal. Just another day at the office."
|Expect more of these sort of postgame celebrations for the dynamic Strasburg. (Getty Images)|
"I definitely think anything's possible," Strasburg said.
And why shouldn't he?
Think of what he did Tuesday, in a game he'd been waiting for all his life.
He not only struck out 14, but he didn't walk anyone. No one had done that in a big-league game in three years. Oh, and nine of the 14 strikeouts came on either three or four pitches.
He struck out the last seven batters he faced, and eight of the last nine. He threw just 38 pitches in the final three innings, and 31 of them were strikes.
He threw his final two fastballs at 99 mph, and the two before that at 98.
As Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said, "It's unusual for someone to have that much hype and live up to it."
Oh, and Zimmerman didn't say that Tuesday night. He said it in spring training.
He lives up to the hype, even as the hype gets deeper and deeper. He gets you so excited that you can't wait for his big-league debut, and then that debut is like nothing you've ever seen before.
You're stunned, and at the same time you're not even surprised.
"I was happy and excited," Nationals pitching coach Steve McCatty said. "But did I expect anything less? Probably not."
McCatty pitched in the big leagues for nine seasons. He knows better than to make too much of one game.
"One down, and a bunch to go," he said. "We'll see how it goes. I think it'll go pretty good."
One down, and a bunch to go. And if Tuesday is any indication at all, you won't want to miss any of them.
"What can you say, other than 'Wow'?" Nationals club president Stan Kasten said. "And tickets are still available."
For now, anyway. For now, tickets are still available.
But maybe not for long.