Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
A standing-room only crowd files into Nationals Park.
As I type this, Stephen Strasburg is playing catch in right field. He'll be heading into the bullpen shortly to begin his full warm-ups. And then we're off and running, and Strasburg is no longer about hype but actual, on-field results in the major leagues.
This stadium has been buzzing since mid-afternoon. The press box is packed to the gills. The entryway to the center-field gates is backed up onto Half Street. Clint is interviewing Ken Burns on the Jumbotron. What has this world come to?
All I can say is, enjoy this for what it is: A once-in-a-lifetime event, taking place right here in our town and in our ballpark. I don't know how it's all going to end up by night's end, but I think one way or the other, we'll be talking about this one for years to come.
Check back for updates throughout, and if you're awake early tomorrow morning, be sure to tune in to ESPN 980. I'll be co-hosting a two-hour, post-Strasburg special show with Andy Pollin from 6-8 a.m. (assuming I can stay awake). Should be fun...
PIRATES at NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m.
TV: MASN2-HD, MLB Network (outside D.C./Pittsburgh)
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Partly cloudy, 77 degrees, Wind 8 mph LF to RF
2B Cristian Guzman
CF Nyjer Morgan
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
LF Josh Willingham
C Ivan Rodriguez
RF Roger Bernadina
SS Ian Desmond
P Stephen Strasburg
CF Andrew McCutchen
2B Neil Walker
LF Lastings Milledge
1B Garrett Jones
RF Delwyn Young
3B Andy LaRoche
SS Ronny Cedeno
C Jason Jaramillo
P Jeff Karstens
7:05 p.m. -- First pitch of Stephen Strasburg's career: a 97-mph fastball inside to Andrew McCutchen for ball one. Flashbulbs aplenty. Boos from the crowd.
7:10 p.m. -- The bad: Strasburg fell behind his first two batters 2-0, drawing boos from the crowd. The good: He rebounded from both to retire the side without a ball leaving the infield. Andrew McCutchen (the Pirates' best hitter) smoked a line drive but right at Ian Desmond. Neil Walker grounded a 99 mph fastball to first base for the second out. And then the highlight: Lastings Milledge struck out on three pitches: a 99 mph fastball, an 82 mph curveball and then an 83 mph curveball that left the crowd roaring. 11 pitches, 6 strikes.
7:14 p.m. -- And Strasburg will take the mound for the second inning holding a 1-0 lead, thanks to Ryan Zimmerman. Zim launched an 0-1 breaking ball from Jeff Karstens over the out-of-town scoreboard for his 12th homer of the season. Crowd roars again. Quite a scene here.
7:25 p.m. -- Everyone in the park is officially hooked on Strasburg. Struck out the side in the second, with a two-out singly by Andy LaRoche (on a 100 mph fastball) sandwiched in there. He hit 100 twice, drawing a huge roar from the crowd. The slurve, though, is what really has everyone oohing and ahhing. Through two innings, 30 pitches, 18 strikes.
7:33 p.m. -- It almost like the crowd gets into a lull when the Nats bat, as if they just want it to end quickly so Strasburg can retake the mound.
7:39 p.m. -- Another 1-2-3 inning, with two more strikeouts. The Pirates look helpless against him, especially against the offspeed stuff (the slurve and the changeup). Through three innings, he's allowed the one opposite-field single and that's it. Six strikeouts. Forty pitches, 25 strikes. Good efficiency.
7:59 p.m. -- Uh-oh. Delwyn Young takes a 1-0 changeup from Strasburg deep to right-center for a two-run homer. Wasn't a bad pitch, down and away, but Young got a piece of it and sent it flying. Just like that, the Nats trail 2-1 in the middle of the fourth. 56 pitches for Strasburg, 34 strikes.
8:01 p.m. -- Tom wins the Presidents Race, a wild affair that included both the Pittsburgh Pierogies and the Not-Really Milwaukee Sausages. Teddy, as always, remains winless.
8:08 p.m. -- OK, when's the last time you remember Lastings Milledge making a throw that good to the plate? Ever? Still 2-1 Bucs after four.
8:14 p.m. -- So that prediction earlier today about Strasburg not being a strikeout pitcher? Yeah, I whiffed at that one like Ronny Cedeno at a Strasburg heater. That's 8 K's through five after another 1-2-3 inning. Total line to this point: 5 ip, 4 h, 2 er, 0 bb, 8 k. 70 pitches, 44 strikes. Figure he probably gets one more inning.
8:21 p.m. -- Strasburg can be as good as he wants. If his teammates can't score more than one run off Jeff Karstens, the Nats are in trouble. Despite six hits in five innings off the Pirates starter, they've got only Zim's solo homer to show for it. They're now 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position. Still 2-1 Bucs, and Strasburg is back out for what is likely his final inning, the sixth.
8:28 p.m. -- Man, oh man. Struck out the side in the sixth with ease. He's at only 81 pitches through six, having struck out 11. In his big-league debut. Unreal. Gotta figure he goes back out for the seventh, maybe comes out after a couple batters to a standing ovation. Nats still trail, though, 2-1.
8:34 p.m. -- And thanks to Adam Dunn, Strasburg will have a chance to go for the win. Two-run bomb into the second deck in right off a Karstens fastball. Nats lead 3-2 in the bottom of the sixth.
8:35 p.m. - Make it 4-2 after Willingham homers himself, knocking Karstens out. Still no bullpen action, so Strasburg will come back out with a chance at the win.
8:44 p.m. -- He's coming back out for the seventh. Drew Storen was warming, though, at the end of the sixth. Figure as soon as Strasburg puts someone on base, he's done and gets to leave to a standing O.
8:53 p.m. -- I don't think we will ever see anything like this again. He struck out the side in the seventh. Struck out seven in a row, 14 overall. The ballpark was going absolutely nuts with each of his pitches. Willie Harris now pinch-hitting to lead off the bottom of the seventh, so Strasburg's debut is done. What a debut: 7 ip, 4 h, 2 er, 0 bb, 14 k, 94 pitches, 65 strikes. He just struck out more batters than any other pitcher in the Nationals' 5-plus-year history. Wow.
9:07 p.m. -- Tonight's paid attendance: 40,315. a sellout, but not a ballpark record.
9:09 p.m. -- According to The Sporting News record book, the most strikeouts ever in an MLB debut are 15, set in 1971 by J.R. Richard and in 1954 by Karl Spooner. So Strasburg came up one short. About the only thing he failed to do tonight.
9:17 p.m. -- We go to the ninth. Matt Capps trots out to the strains of The Final Countdown. Guess the song is back after those blown saves. Would be a nice time for him to get back on track. 5-2 Nats.
9:24 p.m. -- That'll do it. Nats win 5-2. Strasburg gets the win on top of the admiration of the entire universe. Capps gets the save. Zim, Dunn and Hammer all homer. You could not have scripted this any better.