Stephen Strasburg’s dominance continued on Friday night at Nationals Park, when the 21-year-old starting pitcher made the Chicago White Sox his third victim.
The White Sox eventually won the extra-innings thriller 2-1, but their victory was merely a footnote in the wake of Strasburg's performance.
With President Barack Obama in attendance and a sellout crowd of 40, 325 on hand, Strasburg allowed just four hits and one run in seven masterful innings. He struck out 10 and walked none, throwing 85 pitches in his third major league start and first big league no decision.
“I can't put into words anything like what you just saw,” said Nationals Manager Jim Riggleman. "He was outstanding. There weren't too many balls squared up. He really threw the ball great."
Two of the four hits Strasburg allowed came in succession to start the ballgame. Juan Pierre reached on an infield single and Omar Vizquel lifted a bloop-double down the right field line. But the Nationals’ ace soon settled in, retiring the next 12 batters he faced.
Strasburg’s 10 strikeouts give him 32 on the season, a new Major League record for a pitcher with just three games to his credit. On the season, the 2009 No. 1 overall pick has now worked 19.1 innings, allowed 10 hits and four runs, and walked five.
“He knows what he's doing out there,” said Pudge Rodriguez, who has caught all three of Strasburg's starts. "He's always around the plate, and he's got three really great pitches."
At times on Friday night, Strasburg resembled the big kid with the sprouting mustache mowing through his competition at the Little League World Series. You know the one -- the big kid who is just better than everybody else.
Nine of Strasburg’s 10 strikeouts were swinging, and six came on changeups that crossed home plate between 90 and 92 mph. The right-hander got one swinging strikeout on a 99 mph fastball and another on a curve ball that was clocked at 81.
“When a guy is throwing 98 out there consistently, guys are going to cheat by swinging early,” shortstop Ian Desmond said. "And when you throw a pitch that looks the exact same until the end at 90 instead of 100, it's tough to make contact."
Just like in his first home start, Strasburg left the mound to a standing ovation after ending the seventh inning with a strikeout. The San Diego State product has drawn sellout crowds for both home starts. The Nationals have sold out their stadium just one other time all season.
“The crowds have been into the game, but it's fun for us, too,” Desmond said. "We get to play in front of more people than we normally do and we feed off of that. There's also more media here, and we get extra national media attention when he pitches."
Even with the national media tracking the pitcher's every move, detractors have refused to hop on Strasburg’s bandwagon, instead belittling his first two starts. After all, “he only struck out 14 Pirates” and “he only beat the Indians.”
Friday, he only dominated an American League lineup that had won eight of its previous 10 games.
“I don't see a reason why he can't sustain this success,” Nationals closer Matt Capps said. "As long as he keeps locating his heater, what you've seen from him in these three games is going to continue for a long time."
Capps, who pitched a perfect inning in the loss, took a breath before continuing.
"The kid's pretty damn good."