CLEVELAND - For five days, the sports world wondered how Stephen Strasburg could follow his otherworldly major league debut, how he could possibly top 14 strikeouts and millions of hanging jaws. Strasburg played catch and threw in the bullpen. "Just another week, you know?" Strasburg said.
As 32,876 – including Nationals owners Ted and Mark Lerner – packed the stadium, Strasburg validated his momentous debut with another overwhelming performance in the Nationals’ 9-4 victory over the Cleveland Indians. Though he cruised early and won comfortably, Strasburg could not recapture the utter dominance from his maiden start, undone by five walks in his final 12 batters and bothered, oddly, by a crater that developed on the Progressive Field mound.
Strasburg struck out eight, walked five and allowed two hits – a solo home run by Travis Hafner and a bloop single by Carlos Santana – in 5 innings. Twice, members of the grounds crew scurried to the middle of the diamond and adjusted the mound. Strasburg exited to a cascade of boos after he loaded the bases by walking the final two batters he faced.
The results were not as eye-popping, the feeling not as magical. But Strasburg proved without question his first start was no fluke.
“I thought he was actually throwing the ball better today than he did the other night,” manager Jim Riggleman said. “The line score is not going to indicate how well he threw the ball today.”
Strasburg’s strange, sudden end followed an overpowering start. In the 1-2-3 first inning, Strasburg threw eight fastballs. Five zipped at 100 mph, and the other three hummed at 99. For the game, he threw 10 pitches 100 mph.
“Velocity, it doesn’t matter,” Strasburg said. “It’s more important to fans, because they like seeing triple digits or whatever. When you’re actually playing this game, it’s all about locating the fastball, not how hard you throw it.”