Nationals’ Mattheus “amazed” by quality MLB debut against Cards

It has been a pretty amazing run for Nationals right-hander Ryan Mattheus, who began the season in Double-A Harrisburg and on Tuesday made his major league debut for the Washington Nationals.

The run becomes even more impressive when you realize that Mattheus had been in the minors since 2005. Mattheus jumped from the short season Single-A New York-Penn League last year to Harrisburg to start this season after a scintillating spring.

Fast-forward to April 2011. He pitched in 13 games for the Senators, then appeared in nine games for the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs. Overall, Mattheus was 2-1 with a 1.46 ERA, 28 strikeouts and an opponent’s batting average of .143.

And his major league debut was one to remember. At Nats Park, before close to 27,000 against the first place St. Louis Cardinals in a critical moment in Tuesday’s game, Mattheus went 1 1/3 innings, did not allow a hit or a run, striking out two and walking one.

But Mattheus said when he first got the call in the bullpen he had to refocus and channel all the adrenaline before heading into the game.

“That was the most nerve-racking part,” Mattheus said. “Right when Jim Lett said my name, all the excitement hit me right at once. I got up there, started throwing (in the bullpen). It was a little erratic just throwing to the catcher. Once I slowed it down and started breathing a little bit, it started turning into just a normal process. I started to go through my routine.”

On the mound, Mattheus ended the Cardinals’ big fifth inning rally. He got the final out in the fifth inning, and then pitched a scoreless sixth frame. His final out was a strikeout of Cardinals center fielder Colby Rasmus.

“They got a great lineup,” Mattheus said. “You know that going into it. The excitement of the stadium is awesome. Words can’t even explain it. Once I got out there, I slowed it down pretty good, better than I thought I would.”

Mattheus kept the Cardinals lead at 6-1. The Nationals rallied for seven unanswered runs to win the game, 8-6.

“It was amazing,” Mattheus said. “It made it more exciting that it was my major league debut.”

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