Before Stephen Strasburg even started his first minor league game, the circus-like atmosphere he would be pitching in was apparent. According to the broadcasters for the Altoona Curve over 70 media entities requested credentials for this afternoon's game with the visiting Harrisburg Senators. MLB.com streamed the game live and for free. ESPN News carried every inning Strasburg pitched, cutting back and forth between the Nats' no.1 overall pick's first minor league outing and the minor league debut of the Cincinatti Reds' own phenom Aroldis Chapman. ESPN.com's Keith Law reported (via Twitter @keithlaw) that fifteen minutes before the scheduled start time, "Traffic into Altoona's ballpark backed up at least a quarter mile from the exit off I99." As the fans were filing in, Strasburg gave up a two-out double and an RBI single before escaping the first with his first swinging K, 24 pitches, 14 for strikes.
A groundout and two K's got the 21-year-old flame-throwing future Nats' ace through the second, "Two innings for Strasburg and he has yet to throw a fastball under 97,"Keith Law wrote on Twitter. "Now that's more like it. 8 pitches in 2nd for Strasburg, all strikes. 2 K's," MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo (@jonathanmayob3) reported via his own Twitter feed. The overheated MLB.com feed was finally coming through and those of us following along in the Nats/Mets gamethread once again saw for ourselves what every Nats fan in the nation's capital will get to see as soon as June:
• "99 mph fastball on the second pitch, groundout to second from (1B Shelby) Ford..."
• "Strasburg drops an 0-2 curve on the Curves' #8 hitter (SS Jose De Los Santos)...swinging K."
• "100* mph strike two, 99 mph strike three to the opposing pitcher (LHP Rudy Owens)..."
Strasburg hit the inside corner with a high '90's 3-1 fastball to pop up Curve infielder Jim Negrych for the first out of the third, CF Gorkys Hernandez goes down swinging, LF Alex Presley gets a brutal 1-1 change in the 80's then a 100* mph fastball for strike three. It takes Strasburg 15 pitches to get through the third, and he'd set 7 straight down, 5 of them swinging. Strasburg gave up a one-out walk in the fourth, then got a DP grounder Senators' second baseman Michael Martinez blew, putting two on. Strasburg dropped a two-strike curve on the Curve's first baseman Shelby Ford for the second out of the frame, but both runners left after the error would score on a single by the Altoona shortstop De Los Santos in the next AB, and a throwing error on a play at the plate set up Altoona's starter Rudy Owens with an RBI opportunity he cashed in with his own run-scoring single before Strasburg got Negrych looking to end the inning with the Senators down 4-0 on the road.
A two-out RBI single by Senators' catcher Jhonathan Solano set Strasburg up for revenge on his opponent on the hill, and Stras' first minor league AB saw him double in a run and then score on an RBI single by the same infielder who'd committed the costly error an inning earlier. A quick fifth followed in which Strasburg struck out the first batter, Gorkys Hernandez, "...Stras just and I mean just, misses an 0-2 curve outside... But then he drops one on the inside corner for a called strike three," I wrote as I watched. Two weak groundouts to Sens' first baseman Chris Marrero followed, and Strasburg was through five and done:
Stephen Strasburg: 5.0 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 8 K's, 1.80 ERA
The Senators then rallied for two in the top of the sixth, so Strasburg was still the pitcher of record when his team took the lead. 5-4 Senators after six, and 6-4 after a run in the ninth, so the Nationals' 21-year-old, no.1 overall pick and prospect earns the curly-W in his first minor league start, and as Strasburg told a questioner in a recent MLB.com chat entitled, "Strasburg talks pitching with fans", that's the most important stat:**
"Strasburg: I'd say wins and losses. Bottom line, it doesn't matter how low your ERA is, as long as you have one more run than your opponent at the end of the game, you have done your job in helping the team win the ballgame."
"Everyone, including a national TV audience, wanted to see what Stephen Strasburg would do in his first professional outing. Would he begin to live up to the hype? Would he take the first step toward Washington with his first pitch in Sunday afternoon's Double-A contest."
• MLB - Keith Law: Stephen Strasburg's AA debut goes extremely well - ESPN (INSIDERS ONLY, sorry!)
"Strasburg's velocity was incredible; he hit 99 with his first pitch and reached that mark two other times in the third inning. He didn't throw a fastball under 97 until the fourth."
(ed. notes - " * = 100 mph speed was called by tv announcers, Mr. Law doesn't mention any triple digit readings, Mr. Mayo says one gun registered pitches at 100. ** = An FB.com reader reminded me of this quote in Sunday's gamethread, so a head nod there for providing a good quote to end with." Disclaimer: Also, play by play was written while I commented in gamethread and wrote Game Report, so any inaccuracies can be chalked up to multi-tasking errors, not malicious intent.")