The storybook ending that was almost all for naught.
The Pirates had a good shot of ruining the Stephen Strasburg party before it got started, even with an outstanding pitching performance by the much hyped top selection from San Diego State.
Pittsburgh led 2-1 heading into the bottom of the sixth inning of a soldout game at a rocking Nats Park.
Strasburg had pitched very well except for one mistake: a changeup that actually was a good pitch, left up for Delwyn Young, who had smacked a 2-run shot in the fourth inning to give the Pirates the advantage.
Left fielder Josh Willingham said the big crowd was getting the team pumped up and they needed to calm down in the first few innings.
“I think the beginning of the game we were trying to do a little too much offensively instead of acting like it was just another game. The atmosphere will make your adrenaline go a little bit more.”
The almost perfect night needed some offense from the Nats top hitters. The middle of the lineup had very few games this year when they all clicked on the same night. For this special night, they put it together against a very tough Jeff Karstens, and handed Strasburg his first win in his major league debut.
Ryan Zimmerman a solo shot in the first to give the Nats the lead and took some pride that it was his part of the lineup that got it going for Strasburg.
“I mean the 3-4-5 guys finally did something. It has been awhile when we all had a good game. It has been me one time, than Josh one game, and then Adam. We take pride in that. We have been disappointed in how we have played. To get him some runs and get him the win is special for us.”
Adam Dunn a 2-run homer in the 6th made the score 3-2 Nats, he also had a great vantage point on defense to watch Strasburg mow down a Nationals-record 14 hitters.
“It is very impressive if he can strike out that many big league hitters. He really overmatched them. That is hard to do. Everyone up here is very capable of playing this game. He looked like a man amongst boys.”
Josh Willingham added some insurance, going back-to-back to chase Karstens and make it 4-2.
“The power had been there the last few games and driving in runs. We need to do that. You are not going to do it every day, but you need to do it pretty consistently. It was nice to get all three of us going tonight.”
What is amazing in so many ways is how Strasburg did it tonight and where he did it.
No quiet start on the road to get things going. Strasburg’s major league debut came before a sellout 40,315 with a couple of dozen of his closest family and friends, including his college coach and Hall-of-Famer Tony Gwynn, gazing on.
A national television audience was watching. Dozens of cameras were rolling before, during and after the game. Yet Strasburg was the same pitcher he was in Syracuse, in Harrisburg, in the Arizona Fall League and at San Diego State. He went out and pitched with nasty, nasty stuff that had media members shaking their heads in the press box after his sixth strikeout in a row.
Willie Harris says Strasburg’s major league debut will be remembered for a long time. “I am proud for the organization. I am very proud for Stephen the way he handled himself tonight. And most of all getting his first win in his first start. He struck out what, 14 batters? That is unbelievable. That says a lot about him. He had a Hall-of-Fame catcher catching him. I am pretty sure Pudge made him comfortable out there so it was a lot of fun.”