The circus came to Syracuse tonight in the form of Stephen Strasburg. And, for one night, Syracuse became a baseball town.
The Syracuse Chiefs game against the Gwinnett Braves was a sellout. “We are thrilled at the fan response to this game,” said Chiefs general manager John Simone. “We can only hope that fans will react in a similar manner to his future starts.”
Strasburg’s arrival in Syracuse was greeted as something just slightly less exalted than that of a messiah. The Chiefs’ public relations department issued some 30 media credentials — or about five times a normal game night — and the overflow crowd of 13,766 was the largest recorded in the 135-year history of baseball in Syracuse.
After tonight’s performance, the big question is: just how many more starts will Strasburg have in Syracuse? With Washington playing surprisingly good baseball at 15-14 and just 3 games behind the NL East leading Phillies, you’d think that the Nationals might want to find room for the most talked about young pitcher since…Babe Ruth?
Strasburg, making his Triple-A debut after going 3-1 with a 1.64 earned run average in five starts for Double-A Harrisburg, was simply dominant. And, props go to the Syracuse crowd. With two outs in the sixth, the fans at the stadium realized that this would be Strasburg’s final batter. With a full count on the Braves’ Greg Blanco (.245 career in 473 MLB at bats), Blanco fouled off a 95 MPH heater. Then, Strasburg buckled Blanco on an 81 MPH bender.
Strasburg went 6 innings and gave up just one hit, walked one, and struckout 6. He threw an economical 65 pitches and 45 went for strikes. He had 12 ground outs and (gulp) no fly outs. In fact, the only batter to reach the outfield was Blanco who singled up the middle in the fourth on a slow roller that just got under the glove of Chiefs’ shortstop, ex-Phillie Eric Bruntlett.
The ex-San Diego State hurler is more than just a triple digit fastball artist. You don’t get 12 bounce outs without having a killer sinker which is Strasburg’s two seam fastball. Throw in a 99 MPH four seam fastball with bite and you have a dominant hurler.
Strasburg even wielded a mean bat. He executed a perfect squeeze bunt and picked up an RBI for his efforts. (Watch Strasburg’s RBI bunt here.)
So, all you fantasy baseball managers who used a draft pick on Strasburg are probably thinking: when will Strasburg help my team?
There’s no word yet, but the Nationals are a much improved team this year. The Nats pitching staff has been the biggest surprise, especially given that the two starters that are struggling are the Nationals top two in the rotation–John Lannan (1-2, 6.34, 1.93) and Craig Stammen (1-1, 6.75, 1.29). Cuban born Livan Hernandez, 35, has been the biggest surprise (4-1, 0.99, 1.02 in five starts).
One thing is for sure. If you were smart enough to pick Strasburg in your 2010 fantasy baseball draft, your patience may soon be rewarded. If he somehow wasn’t picked in your draft, he’d better be atop your supplemental draft list.
Look for Strasburg in a June 15 debut in a Nationals uniform.