CLEVELAND -- We're live from the press box at Progressive Field as the Washington Strasburgs, er, Nationals take on the Indians in the second big-league start for the game's newest phenom. How many strikeouts will he get? How many hits or runs can the Tribe scratch out? It's going to be interesting.
Stephen Strasburg, for his part, was taking a snooze on the leather couch in the middle of the Nationals' clubhouse when I checked in there around 10:45 this morning. Some TVs had a World Cup game on and others had a replay of a college Super Regional. Nothing fazed him. He was out.
Manager Jim Riggelman dealt with plenty of media in his office for his postgame chat and marveled at how TBS has the Nationals-Indians on today and booted off Red Sox-Phillies. The Indians are expecting a crowd of over 30,000 (they've sold around 10,000 tickets since Tuesday) and there's a few dozen extra media in the press box. All for one player.
"I haven't seen anything like this," Riggelman said. "Maybe they did this with [Sandy] Koufax and some others. I know Texas jumped up in attendance with Nolan Ryan pitching at home because I think people thought every time, "Hey, this might be the next no-hitter." But the national attention certainly has never been like this."
The game is on TBS (hold your breath on that "local" blackout back home). Those in the house today include ESPN, the MLB Network, CBSSports.com, NBCSports.com, USA Today, AOL Fanhouse and Baseball Prospectus. In terms of sports stories these days, there's the World Cup, the NBA finals and Strasburg. Heady stuff.
In addition to starting pitcher David Huff, there are five ex-Bisons in the Cleveland lineup to face Strasburg. It looks like this:
Trevor Crowe, cf
Shin-Soo Choo, rf
Carlos Santana, c
Travis Hafner, dh
Austin Kearns, lf
Russell Branyan, 1b
Jhonny Peralta, 3b
Luis Valbuena, 2b
Anderson Hernandez, ss
Keep it here for live updates on Strasburg's outing. Our live blog from his June 3 start in Buffalo was our best day ever at Inside Pitch. So we like the Strasburg Effect too.
Mid-1st: Here we go. It's a breezy, cloudy 72-degree day. The Nationals went down 1-2-3 in the first off Huff. The crowd is a disappointment in most places but a victory in Cleveland. Most of the lower level is full. Much of the deep RF upper deck is empty. Applause greets Strasburg as he takes the mound for warmups. He's been told to wait a few seconds before coming out and to slow his warmups because of the national TV broadcast. Dude likes to get it and throw.
End-1st: What a show. A 1-2-3 inning for Strasburg on two strikeouts and a liner to left. He threw 15 pitches, 10 for strikes -- four hit 100 mph on the ballpark radar gun and four others hit 99. Strasburg got Crowe swinging on a 100-mph job, burned Choo on an unhittable sinking fastball at 99 and then retired Santana on a scorcher to left that ended his streak of nine straight strikeouts -- one shy of the big-league mark held by Tom Seaver and Eric Gagne. The place was buzzing with every reading on the gun and there was applause every time it hit 100. Wow.
Bot-2nd: The Nats scored in the top of the 2nd and the Tribe ties it as Hafner belts the second pitch he sees -- a 100-mph heater -- just over the wall in right to tie it at 1-1. (ESPN.com legend Jayson Stark notes that Strasburg gave up one HR to 210 minor-league batters and has given up two in nine innings in the big leagues). Strasburg recovers to get Kearns on a fly to right and fans Branyan and Peralta back-to-back. Four more at 99 that inning, two more at 100. Totals through 2: 2-1-1-1-0-4/30-20
End-3rd: An eight-pitch inning and three groundouts. One pitch at 100, one at 99. The score remains 1-1. That's how Strasburg can economize to last longer in games. Totals through 3: 3-1-1-1-0-4/38-25.
End-4th: An Adam Dunn HR puts the Nats up, 2-1. Strasburg survives a tricky inning unscathed, striking out the side around the first two walks of his big-league career. They came on 3-2 pitches to Santana and Hafner, which prompted a mound visit from Pudge. Message sent as Kearns and Branyan went down swinging. Strasburg had gone 10 1/3 innings and 36 batters in the big leagues before the Santana walk -- his first since giving a free pass to Bisons pitcher Dillon Gee on June 3. That was a 24-pitch inning. Totals through 4: 4-1-1-1-2-7/63-39. A note from ESPN.com -- No pitcher in the expansion era has opened his career with back-to-back 10+/whiff games. Strasburg is three away. Sick.
End-5th: Strasburg holds his 2-1 lead and has pitched five innings of one-hit ball. He struck out Peralta, got Valbuena on a pop-up to short, walked Hernandez and got a big assist from 3B Alberto Gonzalez to get the final out on a Crowe bunt. Totals through 5: 5-1-1-1-3-8/79-47. Thinking one more inning?
In other news, Ketchup nosed out Mustard in a photo finish in the daily hot dog race. Onion a distant third.
Top-6th: The Nats have Strasburg in position for his second win with a four-run rally after two out to take a 6-1 lead. Pudge got the key hit, a two-run double to left-center on Huff's first pitch. After a walk to Mike Morse, Frank Herrmann replaced Huff. This has been a long break for Strasburg. Almost certainly means last inning for him. Ian Desmond followed with a two-run 3B off the glove of Crowe in center, who took a terrible angle and had a bad jump. Grady Sizemore makes that play easily. Five-run lead should be plenty for the phenom.
Bot-6th..Strasburg is gone: Santana led off with a broken-bat single to right for the second hit off Strasburg. Fellow first-rounder Drew Storen up in the bullpen. Strasburg then started having a terrible time with the mound, specifically his landing area. Looked like it got inside his head. The grounds crew came out to tend to it and Riggelman was not happy about the situation. Walks to Hafner and Kearns ended Strasburg's day. As he walked to the dugout, he got loud boos from the Cleveland crowd -- which is patently ridiculous -- and a standing ovation from some behind the dugout. You boo the guy because the mound is bad? Bitter people here. Storen to face Branyan with bases loaded and Strasburg's line open.
Storen finds the mound to his liking getting Branyan on a popup and fanning Peralta. So Strasburg's final line reads like this: 5 1/3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 5 BB, 8 K. 95 pitches, 52 strikes.
Strasburg's two big-league outings: 12 1/3 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 22 Ks, 5 BBs, 2.19 ERA
Bot-8th: The Nats have broken it open and lead 9-1. I was just in a group of 3 reporters talking to HOF Bob Feller, who is a regular in seat 84 of the press box (I'm in seat 93 today). Be sure to check out the story in Monday's print edition. Feller did tell me,"He's got a very good reportoire" when asked about Strasburg's outing. And he cautioned, "He's off to a very good start but these aren't the '27 New York Yankees or the '48 Indians he's facing." Doh!
Off to the clubhouse: It took nearly 3 1/2 hours and Strasburg officially improves to 2-0 as Nationals win it, 9-4. Tribe rallied for three in the ninth.
(Photo: Associated Press)
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