Last night I took in my first ballgame of the year at Nats park, which just so happened to be the legendary debut party for 2009’s #1 draft pick Stephen Strasburg. There were rumors last month already that Strasburg would make his major league debut against the Bucs. I’d planned to make one of the series anyway, so everything worked out great.
I was at last night’s game up in Section 307, surprisingly next to a group of Bucs fans. Usually there’s a good Buccos contingent at Nats games, but with the Strasburg debut the city came out. Most buzz I’ve ever seen for baseball game.
The first inning was a 1-2-3 inning: lineout to short for Andrew McCutchen, ground out by Neil Walker, and strikeout for Lastings Milledge. Milledge got the biggest boos of the night. I can’t blame Nats fans for that. The former Nat and our current starting LFer is hitting in the .240s with zero home runs. The Pirates are only the third team Milledge has fooled with his “potential.”
Strasburg fell behind a couple guys in the first two innings (several 2-0 counts) but didn’t allow a walk. Ryan Zimmerman gave him a 1-0 lead with a solo shot in the bottom of the first. Strasburg’s fastball was a consistent 97-99MPH and hit 100 twice by my count, both in the second. The first was followed by a 83MPH curve for a K (not fair) and the second Andy Laroche slapped to right for the Bucs’ first hit of the game.
Delwyn Young’s home run in the 4th, which gave the Pirates a brief 2-1 lead, shocked everybody. The ball was thrown back (PLEASE don’t do that unless you’re at Wrigley). The Bucs didn’t threaten before and didn’t threaten after. In fact, Strasburg seemed to be getting better as the game went on.
Strasburg’s final line: 7 innings pitched, 4 hits, 2 runs, 0 walks, and a Nationals’ record 14 Ks.
Second biggest cheers of the night: video of Bryce Harper being drafted. Nationals fans know their future looks bright.
Lost in the shuffle, Pirates pitcher Jeff Karstens was pitching an effective game until back-to-back HRs by Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham in the 6th gave the Nationals a 4-2 lead. Karstens’ pitch count was actually much lower than Strasburg’s for much of the night and he was just as effective. Journeyman control pitchers who throw in the high 80s aren’t nearly as sexy as strikeout phenoms who can hit triple digits, but then can certainly keep their pitch counts down.
Tonight, the Bucs take their turn at introducing the future. Their starting pitcher is Brad Lincoln, former #1 pick from 2006 who has made it all the way back from Tommy John surgery. Most project him to be a solid #2 or #3 starter in the majors, which the Bucs have a lot of (see also Duke, Zach and Maholm, Paul), but an upgrade over some of the other guys the Bucs have trotted out this year. Starting at LF is Jose Tabata, who came over in a trade with the Yankees a couple years ago. Once heralded as the Yankee’s best prospect (comparisons to Manny Ramirez) his power hasn’t developed like the Bucs wanted, but otherwise he’s ready to contribute on offense and defense (it’s not hard to be an upgrade over Lastings Milledge). He’ll end up as a nice complement to Andrew McCutchen and the real power prospect, 3B Pedro Alvarez, due to make Pittsburgh later this summer.