A Pitch-by-Pitch Breakdown of Stephen Strasburg’s Phenomenal 7th Inning in His First-Ever Major Leag
By now you’ve heard about Stephen Strasburg’s phenomenal pitching performance in his first ever Major League game last night. The rookie didn’t just meet the hype, he blew it out of the water. I turned the game on last night in the middle of the top of the 6th inning. The Nationals were down 2-1, after Strasburg surrendered a 2-run homer in the fourth. In the sixth, Strasburg had just notched his third straight K (and ninth overall) when Andrew McClutchen struck out swinging. Then, the right-hander threw a 99 mph fastball, a 98 mph fastball, and another 99 mph fastball to send down Neil Walker. K #10. He then threw three curveballs and a change-up to strike out Lastings Milledge. Inning over.
That’s when things got interesting.
Strasburg’s pitch count was at 80, and Bob Costas and his fellow MLB Network blowhards started talking about how that would be it for the phenom. The Nationals came up to bat, and a Ryan Zimmerman single, followed by back-to-back home runs by Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham, gave Washington the lead and Strasburg the chance to get his first win. But there were still no outs, and Strasburg’s turn at the plate was four batters away. If he had to come up to bat, he most assuredly would be pinch hit for, Costas tells us. And yet no one got up in the Washington bullpen, and there was Strasburg in the on-deck circle, bat on his shoulder. But #8 hitter Ian Desmond’s groundout ended the inning, and Strasburg was sent back out to the mound.
Costas and Co. predicted he would face just one batter, so he could be taken out of the game to a standing ovation; and then, potentially two, after the cameras spotted a two-finger signal by the bullpen pitching coach. Of course, Strasburg, unfazed, struck out the side in a 14-pitch inning that included five 98 mph fastballs and two 99 strike-three fastballs — all this as his pitch count reached 94, in his first game in the majors. Needless to say, Strasburg enjoyed the standing ovation anyway.
Barring career-threatening injury, Strasburg is going to be around for a very long time, and he’s destined to be one of the greats. I’m not sure I’ll ever forget that seventh inning. It was so phenomenal I went all USA Today and made a graph about just how impressive those final 14 pitches were.
[photo via NYT]