WASHINGTON - Stephen Strasburg struck out 14 batters in his first game, took three shaving cream pies to the face, donned a silver Elvis wig - then compared it all to getting married.
What could he possibly do for an encore?
Baseball’s newest wunderkind went beyond the hype – and anyone’s reasonable expectations – with an electric and unprecedented major league debut Tuesday night in the Washington Nationals’ 5-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
“I’ve been catching a lot of guys,” said likely Hall of Famer Ivan Rodriguez, patting Strasburg on the left shoulder, “but this kid is unbelievable.”
With a standing-room-only crowd roaring at every chance, last year’s No. 1 overall draft pick put on a dazzling display of power pitching. His fastballs reached 100 mph – and still had movement when they crossed the plate – and his nasty curves were nearly impossible to hit.
The 21-year-old right-hander allowed four hits, two earned runs and didn’t walk a batter, piling up the most strikeouts in a big league debut since J.R. Richard fanned 15 for Houston in 1971. He was pulled for a pinch hitter after seven innings and took a quick curtain call.
After the final out, Strasburg was pelted with a shaving cream pie to the face courtesy of teammate John Lannan. The rookie was quickly handed a towel, but after wiping his face was blindsided by two more pies. Then someone crowned him with the goofy, oversized wig that’s named after Elvis Presley – a clubhouse ritual for teammates chosen as the player of the game.
“It’s hard to talk with so much shaving cream on my head,” Strasburg said. “I just wanted to go out there and say I’ve had my first outing in the big leagues. I’ve had a great time.
“The only thing I really remember is the first pitch – ball inside – everything else is just such a blur. At one point I lost track of how many innings I threw. I was like, ‘You know what? I’m just going to go out there and have fun.’ It’s amazing.”