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Live from the ballpark: The Strasburg Show

We're live from Coca-Cola Field for today's big one between the Syracuse Chiefs and Buffalo Bisons. Oh yeah, Stephen Strasburg will be pitching too. Skies are cloudy but clear and the rain is expected to hold out for the afternoon. Strasburg will throw six innings or 95 pitches, whichever comes first.

An aside here: There is plenty of tension between the teams that most folks here won't know about. In the seventh inning last night -- after 11 p.m. with maybe 100 folks still in the seats -- Bisons second baseman Daniel Murphy got taken out on a brutal rollblock slide at second base by Syracuse's Leonard Davis. Murphy is headed back to New York for an MRI and Davis isn't in the lineup today. Hmmm.

Anyway, here's the Buffalo lineup:

Jesus Feliciano, cf (the IL's leading hitter at .386, but 0 for 7 the last two days)
Justin Turner, 2b
Mike Jacobs, 1b
Mike Hessman, 3b (IL HR/RBI leader at 18-55. Has 329 career HRs, tops among active minor leaguers)
Russ Adams, rf
Mike Cervenak, lf
J.R. House, c
Ruben Tejeda, ss
Dillon Gee,  p

Stay tuned for updates on Strasburg's day and for plenty of snippets from Jerry Sullivan.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

GAME REPORT WILL OPEN HERE

Top 1st: Dillon Gee takes the mound for Buffalo and throws the first pitch to Boomer Whiting (seriously) for a strike at 1:07 p.m. The temperature is 71 degrees. The office reports the game is on SNY on DirecTV but Versus is blacked out.

1:16 p.m: Sully on the scene in the bullpen

Well, that's officially a career high for time spent watching a pitcher warm up in the bullpen. I just spent 35 minutes in the middle of a huge throng of fans down the left-field line, watching Strasburg prepare for the final start of his minor-league career.

Bisons security were on the scene, where the front row of seats in Section 119 were blocked off in front of the 60 foot, 6 inch slice of dirt where Strasburg did his warmups. Joe Petronella, the Bisons' veteran chief of security, stood in the vacant aisle, coordinating security and talking occasionally into a walkie-talkie. One young man walked the length of the left-field wall while Strasburg was warming up. Petronella instructed one of his yellow-clad security men to escort the kid out of the park.
 
The first thing I noticed about Strasburg is his hands -- particularly his fingers. They are uncommonly long and one of the reasons he is so masterful with a full pitching repertoire. Strasburg was very meticulous with his warmups. He spent exactly 10 minutes tossing in the outfield, then another 10 throwing to a catcher in the bullpen. After each pitch, he made a point of fixing the spot in the dirt where his trailing foot landed.
 
Dozens of fans looked on, taking in the scene with cell phone cameras and regular cameras. When he finished, Strasburg turned and flipped the baseball to a young fan in the front row. Now, it's time for the real thing.
 

Bot-1st: Strasburg's first pitch to Jesus Feliciano is a 97-mph fastball for a ball at 1:17 p.m. Strasburg throws  14 pitches, seven strikes in a 1-2-3 frame. Groundouts by Felliciano and Turner and a called third strike on Mike Jacobs on an 82-mph curveball. Nasty, nasty. Two pitches at 99.

Snippet from Sully: Strasburg has not been clocked above 99 mph in any of his 10 minor-league starts. He has hit 99 on numerous occasions and one of his pitches hit 99 in the first inning today.  Come on. The guy has to hit 100 at least once before moving up to Washington. I'm predicting it will happen before he gets through the Bisons' order.

Bot-2nd: Another  1-2-3 inning as Mike Hessman fans on a full-count 91-mph changeup, Russ Adams pops foul on a 99-mph heater and Mike Cervenak grounds to third an an 84-mph change. Totals: 17 pitches, 10 strikes (31/17 overall). It's zip-zip through 2. Dillon Gee -- the other pitcher today -- has given up one hit.

Top-3rd: Syracuse takes a 2-0 lead on Pete Orr's long two-run homer to right. Both runs unearned as first baseman Mike Jacobs drops a pickoff throw that had Whiting nailed at first and the runner gets to second on the error. Four pitches later, Orr goes deep.

Bot-3rd: Strasburg fans J.R. House and gets Ruben Tejada on a grounder. But Gee works a full-count walk and Feliciano gets the first hit, an opposite-field single to left. Manager Trent Jewett visited Strasburg between the at-bats; body language said the big guy felt he w as getting squeezed.  Justin Turner flies to left to end the inning. Totals: 20/12...51/29 through three.

Bot-4th: A 12-pitch inning was Strasburg's best. A grounder by Jacobs, a long fly to left by Hessman, who was out in front of an 82-mph change and a called third strike taken by Adams on another 82-mph change. Asburd. Current line: 4 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 4 Ks. Pitches: 12-9 that inning, 63-38 total

Top-5th: Strasburg pulls a one-out single to left-center on an 0-2 pitch. He's 4-10 at the plate in the minors this year. He eventually scores on Chase Lambin's grounder back to Gee to give Syracuse a 3-0 lead. Here's Sully's latest snippet: 

Strasburg is certainly living up to the hype today. He has given up one hit in four innings and doesn't even seem to be at his absolute best. He has fallen behind a lot of hitters, but the Bisons haven't had many good swings against him, regardless of the count. Strasburg is more than a power pitcher. He has a wicked curveball and a devastating changeup that he can throw behind in the count. He froze Russ Adams with a 3-2 curve to end the fourth inning. The thing is, Strasburg doesn't need to strike people out to be effective.
 
Is there anything he can't do? Strasburg blooped a single to left. He's now 2-for-3 at the plate for Syracuse.
 
End-5th: Strasburg battled through a 26-pitch inning and, with his count at 89, might only face one more batter.  He gave up a leadoff single to Mike Cervenak and a one-out hit to Ruben Tejada, who sent Cervenak first-to-third. Tejada took second on a wild pitch and Feliciano worked the count full before grounding to second on an 80-mph curve. Line: 5 IP, 3 H, 1 BB, 5 K...89-54
 
Sully's latest snippet:
What a disappointment! Five innings, 89 pitches, and Strasburg hasn't reached 100 mph on the gun! A few fastballs hit 99 mph, but that's it. I want my money back. Oh, that's right. I didn't pay to get in.

Seriously, Strasburg is as good as his hype. He's thrown five shutout innings and has struggled with his command. But it helps when you can throw filthy curveballs on 3-2 to get out of trouble. That's what he did in the fifth. The Bisons had runners at the corners with two outs and the IL's leading hitter, Jesus Feliciano, at the plate. On a 3-2 count, Strasburg snapped off an 80 mph curve and Feliciano rolled it to second base for the last out of the inning.

The kid is at 89 pitches through five. He's on a 95-pitch limit, so Strasburg will probably pitch to one hitter, maybe two, and give way to the bullpen. Syracuse has a reliever warming in the pen.
 
Mid-6th: Strasburg is out (Jeff Mandel struck out for him as a pinch-hitter). Syracuse leads 5-0 after Devin Ivany's two-run homer off the left-field foul pole. Lots of folks moving up the aisles, either to leave or got to a concession stand. FINAL LINE: 5-3-0-0-1-5  89-54. Final ERA is 1.08 in Triple-A, 1.30 overall in the minors.
 
End 8th: Syracuse has a 7-1 lead after Chris Duncan's two-run homer in the top of the inning. Feliciano doubled and scored on Justin Turner's single in the bottom of the frame. Feliciano is 2 for 4 today and batting .388.
 
It's over: Chiefs win it, 7-1.

----------------------------------

11:58 a.m. Snippet from Sully:

I have to admit, I'm excited to see Stephen Strasburg pitch for the first time. I wonder if he'll hit 100 mph on the radar gun. A couple of weeks ago, I came to a game with my son and it seemed the radar gun was a little high. Maybe he'll get to 101 or 102!

Of course, what I'm really looking forward to is seeing how Strasburg does when he gets promoted by the Nationals. Based on his performance at his minor-league starts, he's the real deal. You can't fake the numbers this guy has put up. There aren't many pitchers who can throw 100 mph, throw a curveball that buckles the knees, and mix in a big-time changeup.
 
Last night, we almost had our third perfect game in a month. If Dallas Braden can be perfect and Armando Galarraga get within an out and a bad call of a perfecto, what might Strasburg do? The guy could threaten to throw a no-hitter soon after getting to the big leagues. Hitting is down in the Major Leagues, especially in the National League. Gee, do you suppose it might have something to do with the crackdown on performance-enhancing drugs?
 

Noon: The press box is packed today. Reporters are here from Pittsburgh, Toronto, Hamilton, the Associated Press, MLB.com and MILB.com as well as Buffalo area outlets. Also here is Dave Sheinin of the Washington Post, who has covered nine of Strasburg's previous 10 minor-league outings.

12:30 p.m: Strasburg is stretching in left field. Crowd 8-10 thick behind the pen stretching down toward the dugout.

12:41 p.m.: Strasburg begins tossing in short left field. I have NEVER seen a crowd around the bullpen like this. Hundreds of folks with cameras and cell phone cams. Sheinin of the Washington Post just pointed out the paper's weather blog has launched a "StrasCast" for June 8 in DC. Wow. Gotta get a link to that.

12:49 p.m.: Strasburg throws his first warmup pitch from the mound.

12:58 p.m.: Strasburg takes time out for the national anthem. Not overly impressed with the crowd overall thus far. Biggest we've seen this year but half-empty upper deck and lots of empties down the lines. Doubt they make 14,000. Too bad it's a day game. I have no doubt they sell it out if it was at night.

1:02 p.m: The show ends in the bullpen. Strasburg makes his way to the 3B dugout shadowed by photographers. The fans stream away from the wall and are ushered to their seats. We're going to keep our game blog in this post but scroll up to see.

tagged

Bisons/Mets | International League
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About Inside Pitch

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has covered the Buffalo Bisons since 1992 and Major League Baseball since 1995. A member of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, Harrington has reported on more than 30 MLB postseason series — including every game of the World Series in this century — and all three of the Bisons' championship runs in their modern era. He is a connoisseur of the famous Stadium Mustard at Cleveland's Progressive Field.

@BNHarrington | mharrington@buffnews.com


Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has covered the Bisons for The Buffalo News since 2002. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz | amoritz@buffnews.com

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