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A Series of Firsts

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Stephen Strasburg lived up to the hype in his first road start.

This is the debut entry of my first ever blog. The title is tentative at the moment. To give you an idea of who I am, my name is Anthony Pokorny. I have lived in northeast Ohio my entire life. Like many men, I am a sports fanatic. Baseball is my passion. I grew up in a baseball-loving family and I have never let my love of the game slip. Naturally my favorite team is the Cleveland Indians and no matter how bad the team gets, I will never abandon them.

How appropriate is it that in my first post on the first blog of my life, I will be talking about a couple of other firsts. Yesterday I attended my first Cleveland Indians game of the season. They took on the Washington Nationals, looking to sweep the team after winning the first two games of the series, and extend their winning streak to five games. The starting pitcher for the Nationals was their rookie phenom Stephen Strasburg. Since he was only making his second career Major League start, this was also my first time seeing him pitch live.

Knowing the Indians would play Washington at home this season, I kept a sharp eye on any news regarding Strasburg from the very beginning. Upon hearing when he may make his big league debut, I did my calculations in order to figure out if the Indians would face him. Once the news was released, I made my quick decision, found two more people to go with me, and scored three tickets in the middle of the bleachers at Progressive Field.

Everyone baseball fan in America knows the hype surrounding this kid and for the most part he lived up to it as the Nationals salvaged the series against the Tribe on getaway day with a 9-4 victory. Strasburg finished the day allowing only one run on two hits with eight strikeouts and five walks in 5-1/3 innings. A very good day for the 21-year old. However, it could have just as easily turned average.

The first four innings Strasburg was as dominant as he was in his debut. He was popping the glove at a consistent 99 mph and hitting 100 a few times. As expected, the Indians barely touched him. Travis Hafner sat dead-red on the 100 mph heat and launched it into the front row of the mezzanine in his first at-bat. But aside from that, nothing. The homer did not even phase Strasburg.

What did seem to get under his skin was an apparent issue he took with the pitcher’s mound. Twice he stopped the game to have the Tribe grounds crew fix the front of the mound. My brother, who witnessed the game with me, suggested his Indians counterpart, left-handed David Huff was digging the hole with his landing foot, causing Strasburg to slide around during his pivot. While I don’t disagree with Strasburg taking issue, I do have a problem with twice stopping play to have the grounds crew fix it. This is probably a case of rookie growing pains. I rarely, if ever, see a veteran pitcher stop a game to have the mound fixed if they see one little problem with it, let alone twice in one game. What do they do? They deal with it. They try to make adjustments by themselves. As good as he is, if he starts to complain about every little problem he sees with the mound, he is not going to make any friends around the league.

The issues with the mound, coupled with the umpire beginning to squeeze Strasburg a bit, led to five walks and what many consider to be an early exit from the game. He was pulled in the sixth inning after walking the bases loaded. The Indians could have considered that a moral victory, but they could have done better. With Strasburg out of the game, they had an opportunity to capitalize and charge more runs to his line for the day. However, the Nationals’ other first-round draft pick from last year and another fireballer, Drew Storen, came in and shut them down.

After the Indians were nearly victims of a perfect game two weeks ago against a mediocre pitcher, I half-expected Strasburg to come into Cleveland Sunday and actually make a perfect game stick. However, being a die-hard Tribe fan, although it would be amazing to see live, I did not want to see it happen. So when Hafner wasted no time in bombing Strasburg in the second inning, I was elated. Despite not being able to make great contact against Strasburg, I was impressed the Indians learned from the Pirates’ mistakes and exercised enough patience at the plate to run up his pitch count and draw five walks. It was decent execution of a good game plan, but they could not capitalize and the Indians pitching staff did not hold up their end of the game.

Stephen Strasburg was quite impressive and did live up to the hype. But as many people have already pointed out, he pitched his first two games against sub-par teams in the Pirates and Indians. His real test will come when he faces stronger hitting teams such as the Reds and Dodgers, or premier National League hitters like Albert Pujols, David Wright, and Ryan Howard. He made a good first impression and he is definitely something I would like to witness from the behind the plate the next time he pitches at Progressive Field.

Credit for image goes to http://jeffrsabo.wordpress.com/

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Written by apokorny

June 14, 2010 at 11:49 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Anthony,

    Great post! It has lots of depth to it and well written!

    I found it odd how Strasburg was the only pitcher complaining about the divot. Even though it was fixed, it seemed odd he was the only pitcher who pointed it out. It delayed the game quite a bit and it made me wonder if it was a stall tactic for the bullpen.

    I would like to see Strasburg face some of the better hitters in Major League Baseball. He will not be able to strike out Pujols, Ryan Howard or David Wright as easily. In a weird way, I almost want to see Strasburg play in more Interleague games where he would have to face tougher lineups like the Yankees, Red Sox or even the Angels. One hitter I would like to see him face is Ichiro Suzuki because of Ichiro’s patience and speed.

    Jeff

    jeffrsabo

    June 15, 2010 at 2:09 am

    • I’d like to see him face the Red Sox and Yankees too, but of course we’re not going to see that this season unless the Nationals surge and make the World Series, haha. Although if the fact that he’s only been in the league a month by then is overlooked and he makes the all-star team, that will be interesting.

      apokorny

      June 15, 2010 at 2:23 am


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