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Just a hint of Stephen Strasburg's top capacity is simply stunning
"I hope that I am faced with some tough decisions on when to take him out of games," said Manager Jim Riggleman on Sunday. "I hope there'll be times when fans say, 'Should Jim have taken him out?' because that will mean he's having some great games."
After one start, that doubt is removed. There are shutouts, high-strikeout games and, almost certainly, no-hitters ahead for this man. Not that he will have a clear memory of them.
"I remember the first pitch -- a ball inside. Everything else is just a blur. I didn't even know what inning it was at one point," said Strasburg, who used no scouting report, but will next time. "It's like getting married. You want to remember everything. But once it's done, you can't remember a single thing."
Don't worry, everybody else can.
If it hadn't been for the inconvenience of that artificial but wise pitch-count ("he probably could have throw 195 pitches tonight," said Riggleman), Strasburg would have cut up Spooner's record with his knifing curveball and pitchfork of a fastball that lit the scoreboard with a "100" reading several times.
So what if Strasburg never struck out more than nine men in a game in the minors and said that, as a pro, he wanted pitch-saving ground balls, not whiffs. Remember his days at San Diego State and the 23-strikeout game we all wore out on YouTube? "It felt like that game and the no-hitter [in college]," said Strasburg. "Early, I was a little bit all over the place. . . . But as the game went on, the adrenalin kicked in and everything was working."
On 93 of his 94 pitches, Strasburg allowed only three singles and walked no one -- a 14-0 ratio. Except for one pitch, Strasburg might have pitched shutout ball and had one of the highest "game scores" in the history of all debuts as computed by baseball-reference.com. He wouldn't have rivaled Juan Marichal's 12-strikeout, one-hit shutout -- the top-rated game ever -- but he'd have been within sight of anybody else, held back from the top by the contemporary aversion to complete games.
But he didn't. And that actually brought extra drama to the night. His worst pitch was still a good one -- a knee-high change-up. But this is the big leagues and in the Show, a change-up, if anticipated, can be smacked into the first row of the right-centerfield bleachers for a two-out, two-run home run.
And that's just what Delwyn Young did in the fourth inning.
Perhaps mildly annoyed, Strasburg retired the last 10 hitters in order. Crank up the myth machine. Or at least the silver Elvis wig and a double-serving of shaving-cream pie in the face.
From beginning to end, this evening's entertainment was guilty of false advertising. On this perfect night, Strasburg was not introduced to the major leagues, as so many said. Instead, the big leagues were introduced to Strasburg.
It was a magnificent mismatch.