The first two letters in the names "Stephen" and "Strasburg" are "S' and "T."
So are the first two letters in the word "stopper."
Tonight at Nationals Park, that's exactly what Stephen Strasburg is expected to be for the home team - a stopper. As in "stop this three-game losing streak, reverse the fortunes of your ballclub after a dreadful 1-5 road trip, and pump up the populace with that amazing ability you've got."
It's that final task that may be the most important. Strasburg's big league initiation has gone remarkably well: two wins, a bunch of strikeouts, and a "National League Player of the Week" award. I'm not sure what the award is anymore - whether it's simply a certificate or something more tangible. Years ago I know the AL Player of the Week got a wristwatch that usually ended up being given to one of the clubhouse helpers, since it was so far beneath the quality that a professional athlete would actually wear. It's possible that the award is little more than a press release these days; I'll have to check on that.
The White Sox last played a game in Washington on Friday night, July 16, 1971, when Tommy John - before the surgery that bears his name existed - shut out Pete Broberg, the Senators' number one straight-to-the-majors pick out of Dartmouth, 2-0 on 5 hits before 6,671 at RFK Stadium. Thirty-nine years later they'll face another first rounder, albeit one that got some minor league experience, but has already surpassed Broberg in notoriety. (Pete Broberg, by the way, is now a very successful attorney in Palm Beach, FL.)
Some tickets still remain for tonight's game, but it's expected to be nearly a full house again. It's not a must-win situation yet; let's call it something else. The fact is, if Strasburg puts on a show anything like his debut against Pittsburgh, he'll still lead SportsCenter later on tonight. The Nats will still be on every local sportscast coast-to-coast.
That kind of marketing doesn't grow on trees.
By all means, Stephen, stop the losing streak. Failing that, at the very least, stop the show.