Rachel Levitin: Recalling poise, power and hype surpassing expectation

It isn't often hype matches and then surpasses expectation, but last year on this very date, that's what Washington watched live at Nationals Park. Pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg became a part of Nationals folklore when he made his major league debut against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The start was by no means shaky, but there were a few moments where the victory almost slipped away. Thanks to a few offensive heroics from Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn, combined with a nasty fastball and a defensive cradle, Strasburg got his first win and baseball fans in Washington witnessed a game they will never forget. And to think, I almost didn't buy a ticket. Like some others out there, I didn't want to go through the stress of having to search far and wide for a moderately priced piece of paper to grant me admission to a park I could go to for$5 to $10 any other day of the week. Then I remembered why I couldn't turn down the chance: Games like Strasburg's debut are what make baseball so special. Baseball is a game of moments we don't expect. That's what makes it interesting. We can read the statistics all we want before, during and after gametime, but when it comes time for the batter to enter the box and pitcher to take the mound, we literally have no idea what will actually happen. Remember that time this season the Nats stomped the Phillies? Or how about that time the Nats made Tim Lincecum of the World Series champion Giants look foolish on Washington's home turf? Sometimes, the best games are the ones that happen when we least expect them too. It's kind of like Michael Morse's recent walk-off home run. We didn't see it coming, but it was pretty awesome, wasn't it? With Strasburg, we saw it coming, but we didn't know how good it would feel getting there. I have never been to a game like that one before and I doubt I'll ever be at one ever like it again. The electricity at the ballpark has been unmatched since. Every fan on their feet on a two-strike count, groaning and grunting every time a ball was called - that was Nationals Park that day. It was a playoff atmosphere, but Strasburg pitched with poise and power. It was a game that, in the scheme of things, didn't matter, but it mattered to Washington's starter, the Nationals, D.C. baseball fans, baseball writers and casual fans alike. Here's to that day and many more like it. A quick and speedy recovery, Stephen. Rachel Levitin blogs about the Nationals for We Love DC, and will be sharing her observations about baseball in the nation's capital this week as part of MASNsports.com's season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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