Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The Frenzy

Our Fans cheered his every move.

Walking out of the dugout to stretch.

Warming up in the bullpen.

Heading back for the start of this game.

His first strikeout of Lastings Milledge of The Pittsburgh Pirates.

They even roared when the 21st pitch he ever threw in a regular season Major League Game was called a ball--but registered 100 MPH on Nationals Park's Speed Gun. The Pied Piper of Our Washington Nationals not only sold out Nationals Park tonight, but he inspired a frenzy not EVER SEEN in the five plus years since baseball returned to The Nation's Capital. Not even a two run homer delivered by the visitor's Delwyn Young in the top of the 4th inning destroyed the atmosphere because Washington's veterans--Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham helped their Rookie teammate overcome any nervousness--by hammering out round trippers of their own.

June 8th, 2010 will always be remembered as a special night for baseball in Washington, D.C. because Stephen Strasburg made his Big League Debut. He not only didn't disappoint, but the San Diego State University product was as electrifying as he was composed and calm. Really, nothing seemed to faze him. And NEVER IN THE SHORT HISTORY OF Our Washington Nationals has anyone witnessed the hysteria Strasburg created in the top of the 7th inning tonight.

No--nothing quite like these few minutes.

Our Washington Nationals led 4-2 as Our Number 37 took to the mound for what was to be his last inning of work. Having already struck out 11 Pittsburgh Pirates, he had already been in control most all night long. But a side of Stephen Strasburg no one had yet to see was soon to come: sheer domination. A performance that sent those 40,315 in attendance into an outburst that could only be described as sheer madness.

A craze was building that would not die. A fury of support which found Washington's fans bursting out in joy after the 2009 Number One Overall Pick struck out Garrett Jones on one of his wickedly thrown curves for strike out number 12. They stood and hollered when Stephen Strasburg made quick work of Delwyn Young--by striking out Pittsburgh's Rightfielder on three pitches for lucky number 13. And the crescendo reached it's climax, going completely over the top, when The Pied Piper of Our Washington Nationals literally blew away Andy LaRoche on a 99 MPH heater that the Pittsburgh 3rd Baseman couldn't touch. Strasburg's Whiff Number 14 brought the house down.

The frenzy now reaching a fever pitch--moments after Stephen Strasburg threw his very last pitch this evening.

If it was ever possible for over 40,000 to have a conniption at the same time--This Was it!!

There has NEVER BEEN SUCH A COLLECTIVE ROAR since D.C.'s Team moved to Nationals Park--not even on Opening Night, 2008--when Ryan Zimmerman knocked out his famous walk off home run against The Atlanta Braves. Seven innings into his first starting assignment as a Major Leaguer, Stephen Strasburg had won over the home crowd. Their adoration cascading down from the furtherest reaches of the ballpark. The thunder so loud-- so sustained--the concrete flooring in the seating section was actually vibrating.

As Washington's New Ace slowly walked to the home dugout at the conclusion of his final inning of work, the crowd did not let him go quietly. They bestowed on Strasburg their appreciation. They applauded. They screamed. They yelled their hearts out. This never seen before fury--really pent up passion. D.C.'s Fans giving thanks to a young man that, in just one day--after just one night on the mound pitching for Our Washington Nationals--transformed the outlook of his new team. Finished for the evening, but just beginning his career, Stephen Strasburg had brought a new life, a new vigor and a renewed interest to Major League Baseball in The Nation's Capital.

Only the curtain call was left. And that happened moments later when over the public address system, it was announced--and shown on the HDTV Scoreboard--that Stephen Strasburg had set a new Washington Nationals record by striking out 14 Pittsburgh batters--exceeding the total of John Patterson from August 4th, 2005 at RFK Stadium versus The Los Angeles Dodgers.

Pressured to be perfect, hyped beyond all reason, Stephen Strasburg came to the Nation's Capital tonight, pitched up to expectations and left with a victory. And in doing so, after his teammates closed this game out for him over the final two frames--won over the hearts of thousands of D.C. fans. How remarkable that a 21-year old could handle all the distractions so well. With that frenzy surrounding his every move--Stephen Strasburg delivered one beautifully pitched baseball game. MASN's Phil Wood believing tonight's baseball atmosphere in D.C. so marvelous--"The only thing that possibly compares to this is Game 7 of the 1924 World Series. When that game ended (and The Washington Senators/Nationals had won their only Championship)--with dusk approaching--Griffith Stadium was still full of people, lighting matches. There was even dancing in the street outside."

Well, The Pied Piper Of Our Washington Nationals had his following dancing in the aisles as well tonight on South Capitol Street. Hopefully, many more evenings like this one to follow.

Final Score from Nationals Park where Stephen Strasburg made his long-awaited Major League Debut and was downright spectacular: Our Washington Nationals 5 and The Pittsburgh Pirates 2. Curly "W" Number 28 will be long remembered for a young man that threw a 100 mile per hour fastball. A 82 MPH curve. A 90 MPH change up. And carried himself on the mound like a 10-year veteran. The Bang!! Zoom!! Of The Fireworks!! signaling a new era in D.C. Baseball because a Rookie Phenom had captured the imagination of the fan base--whipping it into a frenzy, the most energetic crowd ever seen on South Capitol Street.

With the bar raised incredibly high, rarely does the hype and the eventual results meet expectations. Yet Stephen Strasburg did so and more tonight as over 40,000 left Nationals Park having watched one of the more outstanding debut performances by any pitcher in the history of Major League Baseball. Strasburg wasn't perfect, but it was plain to see that this highly touted pitcher is the real deal. He's smart, poised, and has one of the sharpest breaking balls you've ever seen. Combined with his blazing fastball, no wonder South Capitol Street was set off in a frenzy. Everyone understanding, the Stephen Strasburg package that arrived at Nationals Park tonight came exactly as originally described-- polished. And that top of the 7th finish was total domination.

Game Notes & Highlights

Stephen Strasburg's first pitch was thrown at 7:06PM on June 8th, 2010. It was a called ball by Home Plate Umpire Tom Hallion. His numbers: Seven innings pitched, 94 pitches, 65 strikes. four hits allowed, two runs scored, 14 strike outs and ZERO walks. He reached 100 miles per hour on his fastball a few times. He never appeared out of control. His catcher Pudge Rodriguez would High Five him each and every time an inning ended with success. They made a good pairing. Pudge calling the game. And Stephen Strasburg delivering the goods. You can't say enough about that performance. Stephen Strasburg was just terrific.

So was Tyler Clippard in the 8th and Matt Capps in the 9th. Mr. "No Nonsense" shutting down The Pirates in the 8th and "Cardiac" Capps being anything but in the 9th. Our Number 55 returning to his early season form with a 1-2-3 ending to this game to record his league leading 19th save of 2010.

Of course no big game can ever pass without Ryan Zimmerman getting into the act. In the bottom of the very first inning, the Z-Man cranked out an opposite field homer to right center off Pittsburgh's Jeff Karsten. A solo shot that lifted Washington into the early lead 1-0. And set the stage for what was to come later from Dunn & Willingham. With Washington down 2-1 thanks to Delwyn Young's two-run homer in the top of the 4th, scoring Milledge before him--Nationals Park's noise meter was reduced for the only time tonight. But thanks to back-to-back home runs from Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham in the bottom of the 6th off Karsten, Washington took the lead back for good (4-2). Dunn's home run a titanic blast into the second level of Section 239 just below the Miller Lite Scoreboard Walk (scoring Zimmy before him). The Hammer's--a rocket launched into Section 103 down the left field line.

Washington would score an insurance run in the bottom of the 8th when Pudge Rodriguez grounded into a double play with the bases loaded for their 5th run. The Z-Man crossing the plate for the 3rd time this evening. Washington with 11 total hits. Zimmerman and Dunn with three base hits apiece. Returning from the Disabled List--Pudge had two hits--including a double.

In the bottom of the 3rd inning with two outs, Pirate Centerfielder, Andrew McCutcheon, slammed a Strasburg pitch into the grass right at Ryan Zimmerman. The hard hit baseball took an odd bounce straight up as Zimmy came in on the ball. When the baseball deflected off his glove and back over his head--toward his right side--Our Number 11 grabbed the baseball in mid-air with his bare right hand. Then in an attempt to get the fast moving McCutheon at first base, Zimmerman quickly slung the ball across the infield--side arm. The Defensive Play Of This Game saved when Ryan's off line throw was retrieved by Adam Dunn in front of 1st Base--just in time to tag out McCutheon to end the frame.

Few games involving Our Washington Nationals have ever had this much media in attendance. Over 200 credentialed. They lined the warning track between first and third base for batting practice. They hovered for every sound bite. They shot pictures of every thing that moved. And every single camera waited for Stephen Strasburg to step out of Washington's Dugout for the very first time. MLB Network, ESPN, USA Today, Fox Sports--even Super Agent Scott Boras--Stephen Strasburg's and Bryce Harper's representative--was there. No, it was not quite even the playoffs, but the sight of all the media at Nationals Park signified how important this moment was to Major League Baseball and Washington, D.C.

People were everywhere throughout Nationals Park tonight. In some spots, standing three to four rows deep in fans. They were loud, vociferous and nearly everyone watching every single pitch Stephen Strasburg threw. Nothing beat the sight during the top of the 7th inning, Strasburg's final frame, when on Gallery Level--every single person was watching the baseball game--this picture of the upper concourse taken with one out in the top of the 7th. THERE IS NO ONE AT A SINGLE CONCESSION STAND!! No One. Everybody watching Stephen Strasburg pitch. Nobody wanted to miss a single pitch thrown by The Pied Piper Of Our Washington Nationals.

Everyone was also in on the 4th inning Presidents Race. The Rushmores, The Pittsburgh Pirogues, The Unracing Sausages and some guy on a Segway--all making for a confusing race that found racers running into each other, Teddy leading most of the way, but eventually losing by just a few yards to Tom. When Teddy lost, the crowd actually booed.

Just like they did each and every time Lastings Milledge stepped to the plate. Washington's former centerfielder not receiving any love tonight from the fans at Nationals Park. They let him have it. And didn't let up. Even when Lastings made a nice throw in the bottom of the 4th, tossing out Josh Willingham at the plate trying to score on a fly out hit by Roger Bernadina. A friend sitting next us immediately stated: "How come we never saw that from him when he played for us?" I immediately replied: "What can I say, it's a night of firsts for a lot of things!!" Everybody laughed.

This couple sitting behind us was very excited throughout the game--especially the wife. After Number 37 in White & Red was removed by Our Manager Jim Riggleman, Sohna turned to her and asked are you getting your money's worth? Her reply: "Yes, it's worth every penny spent on the ticket and well worth the hype!!"

And of course, Stephen Strasburg received the customary shaving cream pie in the face after his first Major League Victory. John Lannan and Scott Olsen both delivering the goods back to back. The Silver Elvis Wig also placed on his head while doing a post-game interview with MASN.

And finally, what would any debut be without memorabilia to sell. The Main Team Store in Center Field Plaza selling commemorative Strasburg Number 37 tee-shirts, mini bats and a limited edition collectable pin.

More coming later today covering the color and media hype surrounding the event--including some really nice minutes with Harold Reynolds from MLB Network. We just need to transcribe the interviews.

Tonight's In Game Photos--Greg Fiume (Getty Images)
All Other Photos--Nats320--All Rights Reserved

1 comment:

Laurie said...

Thanks Jeff! It was equally as impressive at home (best seat around)..and I hope all the 22K Nats fans (regular's) and the 28K baseball fans (that came just for the event) enjoyed it. Maybe we can get the other 28K to jump on board the season ticket holders band wagon and join us for all the games!
Great coverage!! See you Thursday.