Strasburg came, and Strasburg conquered.
Coming off the Metro and entering the park at the centerfield gate today, there was a certain electricity in the air. What it was I couldn’t quite put my finger on, but it was something different. Obviously, people were excited about seeing the team’s phenom, Stephen Strasburg, and just excited to be there in general, but there was something different in the air at Nats park that superseded that.
It wasn’t until the seventh inning as Strasburg was on the verge of striking out his sixth consecutive batter that I realized what that feeling was, baseball had finally arrived in Washington D.C. The 40,000 D.C faithful had risen to their feet and applauded for the 21-year-old rookie.
They applauded to encourage Strasburg to put on the finishing touches of an amazing 14 strikeout debut performance.
They applauded because that’s what you do when you see a world class, unique, performance.
They applauded to let the front office know the satisfaction of their work, and they applauded because for the first time, the Nationals had a real magical moment.
It’s those kind of moments that make a baseball town. Sure, the Zimmerman walk-off homers, and the president’s first pitches are special, but it is moments like these that make fans feel like they are a part of something that no one has ever seen before, or perhaps no one will ever see again.
After Strasburg blew away Adam LaRoche for strike three, the crowd remained standing and applauding in a joint celebration of this wonderful gift that finally, after five years, had made its way to Washington. The gift of Strasburg, the gift of baseball.
His performance tonight took me back to days when I was a kid watching Pedro Martinez and Mike Mussina rack up double-didget strikeout totals. It gave me the feeling that there was no way I could continually get more and more impressed, but pitch after pitch I did.
In seven innings Strasburg struck out 14 without allowing a single walk. His fastball peeked at 100.1 MPH, and averaged 97.5 on the night. He forced sixteen swinging strikes in 94 pitches, and more impressively, he made batters swing and miss at all of his pitches equally, meaning that all three are premier weapons in a scary arsenal.
Not to be upstaged, Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn each hit monster home runs while both going three for four on the evening. But alas, the night belonged to Strasburg, as well as the Nationals fans.
Let’s hope to feel that magic a lot more often on the banks of the Anacostia this season, and in the future.