Stephen Strasburg dominates as Washington Nationals beat the Cleveland Indians

Rookie phenom Stephen Strasburg strikes out eight Indians to follow his dazzling debut with another win on Sunday, 9-4.
By Adam Kilgore
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 14, 2010

CLEVELAND -- Late Sunday morning, Stephen Strasburg lounged on a couch in the visitors' clubhouse at Progressive Field, watched college baseball on television and, for a few moments, fell asleep. Once he woke up and before he pulled on his Washington Nationals uniform, Strasburg played the Big Buck Hunter arcade game in the clubhouse.

For five days, the sports world wondered how 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 on 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 1/3 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, shaking his head as he disappeared into the dugout.

The results were not as eye-popping, the feeling not as magical. But Strasburg, if he even needed to, 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."

Strasburg struck out the first two batters he faced, which, combined with the seven Pittsburgh Pirates he whiffed to end his debut, extended his streak to nine straight strikeouts. The record, held by Tom Seaver and Eric Gagné, is 10.

Santana lined out to left to end the first, but Strasburg became one of only five pitchers in the past decade to strike out nine straight.

Strasburg surrendered Hafner's home run in the third, a line-drive on a 100-mph, low-and-inside fastball over the right field fence. Strasburg wanted to throw a sinking fastball that darted away from Hafner, but the pitch cut toward him.

He still had not walked a major league batter until the fourth, when Santana drew a free pass on a 3-2, 98-mph fastball outside. Strasburg had 19 career strikeouts before his first career walk, three shy of the post-1900 record Johnny Cueto set in 2008.

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