Strasburg wins MLB debut in lights-out fashion

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strasburg nationals park.jpgWe’ve been lucky enough to witness a multitude of impressive pitching performances this season.  Ubaldo Jimenez fired a no-hitter in early April and currently sits 11-1 on the year with a 0.93 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP.  Those are historically good numbers. 

Dallas Braden threw a perfect game on May 9 against the Rays, who have owned the best record in baseball for over a month.  He has a 1.09 WHIP.

Roy Halladay, long considered the cream of the crop in the American League, is 8-3 over his first 12 starts in a Phillies uniform with 77 strikeouts and only 13 walks.   He threw his first career perfecto in late May against the Marlins.

It has been a spectacular year for fans of dominant pitching, and let’s go ahead and add Stephen Strasburg’s name to the list of guys who are making it all happen.  The 21-year-old kid — that’s right, kid — out of San Diego State University struck out 14 batters on Tuesday night in his major league debut and picked up his first career win.  It should be the first of many.

Never has a pitcher struck out 14 batters without issuing a walk in a MLB debut.  His 94th and final pitch was clocked at 98 MPH on the Nationals Park gun and he hit 99 MPH regularly throughout the night.

To say Strasburg was impressive would be an understatement.  To say he’s “the real deal” would be spot-on.  His hybrid slider-curve looks like a different pitch every time he throws it.  His fastball has a foot of tailing action, even at 99 MPH.  His changeup, which is still in its infancy, looks like a potential long-term out pitch.  He pairs that all with a devastating sinker and he has an incredible amount of touch and feel for his entire arsenal.

This guy’s good.  This guy is real good.  The Nats may be years away from contending in the stacked-with-youngsters National League East, but that will change as Strasburg carves his way through opposing lineups, Ian Desmond grows into his role as the starting shortstop, and Drew Storen begins wrapping up games with confidence.  Maybe Bryce Harper will even get on the fast track.

The Nationals arrived in the nation’s capital in 2005 and finally moved into their new stadium in 2008.  But not until the night of June 8, 2010 did baseball truly get its welcome back to The District.

Red Sox look to punch their ticket to the World Series tonight

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Thanks to some amazing defense, some big hits and — to continue to beat this horse, a bad call by Joe West — the Red Sox have a 3-1 lead in the ALCS and look to clinch the AL Pennant tonight down in Houston.

If you believe in momentum, you’d have to say it’s on Boston’s side. If you believe that momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher, however, you’d have to say things favor Houston more than the standing of the series would suggest. All of which makes me wish Game 5 was starting right now, because it figures to be a tense and exciting affair.

ALCS Game 5

Red Sox vs. Astros
Ballpark: Minute Maid Park
Time: 8:09 PM Eastern
TV: TBS
Pitchers: David Price vs. Justin Verlander
Breakdown:

If someone told you that you had to win one baseball game against the Martians to save the human race, you could do far worse than calling on Justin Verlander to be your starting pitcher. Among the pitchers still in the postseason, he’d almost certainly be your choice right now.

Does Verlander himself appreciate the situation? This is what he said about that yesterday:

“I mean, these are all must-win games at this point. Every time you take the mound I don’t think there’s any difference whether it’s 2-2 or 3-1.”

Look, we’re asking him to beat the Martians here, not win the National Math Bee, so let’s let that go. The point is that after all of these years he’s still one of the most dominant pitchers in the game and after the exhausting, see-saw battle of Game 4, he stands the best chance of giving Houston what it needs: a quick, quiet and drama-free win.

Not that the Red Sox are likely to roll over for that. They didn’t the first time they faced Verlander in this series. They Astros won, yes, and Verlander limited them to two runs on two hits. But he also issued four walks and wasn’t his sharpest overall. Boston didn’t capitalize on his mistakes as best they could, but he’s not invincible.

For Boston it’s David Price. He allowed four runs on five hits and four walks over four and two-thirds innings in Game 2, not factoring in the decision. That’s not great, but given the talk leading up to that game being all about how Price is a postseason flop, the fact that the Sox won it in the end had to bouy him at least a little. As does the fact that, here, tonight, it’s not 100% on his shoulders. Sure, the Sox want to close this out, but with a 3-1 lead there is less pressure on Price than on his former teammate Verlander. Worth noting, though: Price is on short rest and warmed up in the bullpen last night in case he was needed to bail out Craig Kimbrel. He may not go deep into this game.