Tuesday night pretty much sums up how awesome baseball can be.
The atmosphere at Nationals Park was playoff-caliber.
A phenom debuted and lived up to the hype.
You could almost see a team turn the corner from terrible to contender - a la the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays.
Any way you think about it, it was a great night to be a baseball fan.
My thoughts on Stephen Strasburg - besides the fact that he was friggin' awesome:
What a dominant performance. I half expected him to give up a homer at some point, if only someone could get their bat around on his fastball. Delwyn Young hit the homer, and he was one of the few Pirates to make contact against Strasburg, let alone get a hit.
14 strikeouts in 7 innings. And what made this performance so dominant was that with the 14 strikeouts (0 walks) on 94 pitches, Strasburg never looked like he was laboring. At all. I mean, I've seen 10 strikeout games by Johan Santana where guys were fouling balls off and it just looked difficult for the pitcher. Not the case with Strasburg on Tuesday night.
Thank goodness the Nationals got him a couple of runs so that he picked up the win.
And was there any chance he was going to pitch to anyone but Ivan Rodriguez, who was activated from the DL before the game? I'm not the biggest Rodriguez fan, but it's more than a coincidence that he has been involved in early-career successes for so many pitchers.
I hate to rain on the parade, and this is certainly not sour grapes, because I find this very exciting for the Nationals franchise, but I have to tell you what Tuesday night reminded me of. It reminded me of a May afternoon in 1998 when I came back from classes to my dorm at Boston University, and my floormates were following the Chicago Cubs game on ESPN.com.
A rookie making his fifth start was on his way to a 20-strikeout performance. I didn't watch that game (at least I don't think so - I remember video, but I think that was only watching highlights after the fact), but with a complete game, 20-strikeout one-hitter, I think that Kerry Wood performance was the most dominant pitching performance I have seen in my life.
Tuesday night's by Strasburg came very close. Could have surpassed it. Here's the cautionary tale, though - we all know what happened to Kerry Wood after that.
Here's hoping that in twelve years Stephen Strasburg is still striking out 14 batters in 7 innings...and not closing for the Cleveland Indians.
MEANWHILE, AT CITI FIELD: The Strasburg start distracted me from the Mets game, at which Rex Ryan threw out the ceremonial first pitch. (Always love that crossover, with Jets and Mets mixing together. To me it's like when the Muppets and Sesame Street characters used to overlap on holiday specials or something.) But I didn't ignore the Mets.
Mike Pelfrey was involved in quite a pitching performance of his own. The Mets trailed 1-0 into the seventh inning...but I learned my lesson on Sunday. A one-run deficit for the Mets at home is nothing. Jose Reyes hit a 2-out solo homer in the seventh to tie it. (Kind of a dumb rule at Citi Field. Reyes' homer hit above an orange line on the left field wall, but off a railing keeping fans from falling onto the field. After initially ruling the ball was in play, the umps went to video and overturned it to a homer. Which was the right call, according to ground rules, but it seems to me a homer should reach the seats.)
Anyway, the Mets won their ninth straight at home on an Ike Davis 11th inning homer (which more than cleared the right field wall - it was a bomb). Final line by Mike Pelfrey (no decision there) - 5 hits in 9 innings, 6 strikeouts, and - what do you know - 0 walks.
SHAME ON MLB: I have a bone to pick with Major League Baseball. The Southern Bureau is based in Wilmington, North Carolina. I might be getting these details wrong, but the bottom line is he had the Strasburg start blacked out Tuesday night, and that's terrible. He should get MASN there, I think, but doesn't. But because he's in the MASN region, I think, MLB Network was blacked out in his area (consolation for the Southern Bureau - instead they showed the Mets game). Again, bottom line is that he didn't have the Nationals game. I said he should write a letter, he said he did two years ago and never heard anything. Shame on you Time Warner, MASN, Major League Baseball. Your'e denying a huge fan your product. Boo.