In front of the President of the United States, armed secret service agents patroling the roof of Nats Park, and a packed home audience, a 21-year-old captured the moment last night.
Stephen Strasburg no longer had to capture the hearts of Washingtonians. He had done that thoroughly just ten days before with a masterful 14 strikeout performance in his debut. However the burden that laid on the rookies shoulders last night was perhaps even harder than in his debut...he had to back it up.
After a "shakey" start, in which he allowed back-to-back accidental hits, purely as a result of his awesome power, the phenom settled down. After two hits and a run to begin the game, Strasburg retired the next 15 batters he saw, notching nine strikeouts in that span. His fastball was consistently registering at 99, and his low 80's curve was freezing batters throughout the game.
It wasn't until the sixth inning that Strasburg gave up a legitimate hit, and that was to the White Sox's starting pitcher Gavin Floyd. He proceeded to retire the next five batters in order.
Through seven innings of work the 21-year-old finished with 10 strikeouts and no walks. He allowed only four hits, one earned run, and lowered his season ERA to 1.86.
When it was all said and done, he backed it up, and the thousands in attendance, including Barack Obama, went home happy despite the Nationals extra inning loss. Strasburg finished with a major league record, setting the mark for the most strikeouts in a players first three professional starts, with 32.
While the Nats may be slipping out of contention, there is finally some magic down at Nats Park...and that is something to celebrate.