Tuesday was the perfect night for the not-so-long-suffering Washington Nationals fans, right down to the opponent. Even lousy hurlers get excited when the Pittsburgh Pirates' weak-hitting lineup comes to town, so it was obvious that a game against the Bucs would be the perfect starting point for Stephen Strasburg's much-hyped MLB career.
Yes, the Pirate 9 showed up for their rare national television appearance with a lineup featuring six of nine starters batting below .250, which certainly didn't help the odds in a situation like this. To complicate things, C Ryan Doumit sat this one out due to concussion-like symptoms, which was the baseball equivalent of watering down a bottom-shelf well-drink on special night. For those of you under 21, let me translate: the Pirates' lineup was even worse than usual.
But there's no sense droning on about that topic; a lethargic lineup could be the storyline for virtually any Pirate wrap-up. Tuesday was all about Strasburg, who silenced the Bucco bats to the tune of 14 strikeouts, two earned runs, and a fastball topping out at 100 mph in his MLB debut. Of his 94 pitches in seven innings, a whopping 65 were strikes. Every batter in the Pirate lineup struck out at least once, and seven Pirates struck out twice. I could go on and on, but you get my drift: the guy was dominant.
Dominant yet mortal was Strasburg, who did allow a two-run shot to Delwyn Young in the fourth inning. Nonetheless, the Pirates would total just five hits on the evening, with the other four being singles scattered throughout their lineup. Many a Buccaneer walked back to the dugout in disappointment, clutching their bat in frustration.
On the other side, Washington lit up Pirate starter Jeff Karstens on homers from Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn, and Josh Willingham, and Ivan Rodriguez's Corpse nearly stretched a double into a triple in the second inning due to Lastings Milledge being out of position. Karstens went five innings in all, yielding nine hits, four earned runs, and three dingers. He was not confused for Strasburg in any way, shape, or form during the game.
The Nationals would end their storybook night walking away with a relatively easy 5-2 win (closed by Matt Capps), Strasburg got the standard shaving cream pie-in-the-face treatment during his postgame interview, and Washington management will probably be working well into the night counting money and thinking of future opportunities to capitalize on their wunderkind. As much as it pains me to say this considering it came at the Pirates' expense, baseball needs more nights like this.
With Strasmus now behind us, we can now look ahead to another milestone, albeit one with considerably less national fanfare: Brad Lincoln will make his Pirate debut on Wednesday, going up against John Lannan (4.79, 2-3) in Washington at 7:05. I doubt many people will save their ticket stubs and say "I was there" like they did on Tuesday, but make no doubt about it: Wednesday will be an important night in the future of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
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