Stephen Strasburg dominates in 3-0 win over Reading Phillies

Stephen Strasburg and the Harrisburg Senators face the Reading Phillies in a 10:30 a.m. midweek Eastern League game. Strasburg's pitching line for the day goes 5 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 K.
By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 22, 2010

HARRISBURG, PA. -- Stephen Strasburg departed Metro Bank Park by bus Wednesday afternoon with the rest of his Harrisburg Senators teammates, headed out on the road after pitching five dominant innings in the Senators' 3-0 victory over the Reading Phillies. The only question that remains is whether Strasburg will still be with the Senators when they return home on April 30.

In the best of the three starts he has made so far for the Washington Nationals' Class AA affiliate, Strasburg took the mound for a rare 10:30 a.m. game and overpowered the Phillies with his 98-mph fastball, knee-buckling curve and drop-off-the-table change-up. He allowed only one hit and one walk in his five innings of work, striking out six. For the season, he is 2-0 with a 0.73 ERA and 17 strikeouts against only three walks in 12 1/3 innings. "I was able to harness [the adrenaline] a little bit better today," Strasburg said. "I was able to maintain my mechanics the way I wanted to."

In the crowd of 5,077 on Wednesday were Stan Kasten and Mike Rizzo, the Nationals' team president and general manager, and following Strasburg's performance Rizzo sounded as if the phenom's time in the Eastern League would be short.

"I don't know exactly where we're going to be next," Rizzo said. "But there would not be any damage if he has a couple more starts at Double-A. . . . He's doing the things he needs to do to progress to the next level."

Strasburg's next start is scheduled for Monday in Reading, Pa. The Senators return home to open a 10-game homestand on April 30, with Strasburg's every-fifth-day schedule lining up with starts on May 1 and 6.

However, at some point soon he is expected to be promoted to the Class AAA Syracuse Chiefs, who return home from an eight-game trip on May 6 to open an eight-game homestand. All other things being equal, the Nationals would prefer Strasburg to pitch mostly home games in the minors, in order to give their affiliates the bump in attendance.

Strasburg, the No. 1 overall pick of the June 2009 draft, was rarely challenged by the Phillies on Wednesday. Only two of the 17 batters he faced managed to get a ball out of the infield -- a fisted single to shallow center and a fly ball to medium-deep center, both by second baseman Keoni DeRenne.

"All of his pitches were on," said catcher Sean Rooney. "It was pretty impossible to hit."

The Nationals have talked at length about wanting to see Strasburg handle adversity, and when presented with some -- such as during a two-hour rain delay prior to his second start -- he has performed admirably. But if they want to see him handle adversity on the mound, it is fair to ask whether that is possible for him at this level.

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