Published June 12, 2010
| Associated Press
CLEVELAND (AP) — Stephen Strasburg learned life on the road isn't always smooth.
Washington's rookie sensation had more trouble with Cleveland's mound than Indians hitters while lasting 5 1-3 innings during his second major league start, leading the Nationals to a 9-4 victory Sunday.
Coming off a 14-strikeout debut, Strasburg (2-0) allowed just two hits, one a home run by Travis Hafner. He struck out eight and walked five before leaving to a chorus of boos in the sixth as Washington ended Cleveland's four-game winning streak.
Strasburg was in control from the outset, and appeared destined to dominate the Indians, who with the exception of Hafner, couldn't catch up to his 100 mph fastball through four innings.
But the 21-year-old, who has become baseball's newest attraction, was bothered by loose dirt on the mound and twice requested repairs.
When he was lifted by manager Jim Riggleman after walking two in the sixth to load the bases, Strasburg was booed by many of the same fans who came to see if the phenom was for real. Strasburg didn't disappoint, but he didn't deliver anything as sensational as his 14-K gem.
Strasburg's appearance drew 32,876 fans, the second-largest crowd at Progressive Field this season. On hand was another pitching prodigy, 91-year-old Hall of Famer Bob Feller, who fanned 15 in his first major league start as a 17-year-old in 1936.
"It's real refreshing to see anyone with such talent come into the league," said Feller, who sat in his usual seat in the press box. "He's got a good repertoire. He'll have good days and bad, but he'll have a lot more good than bad throwing 100 miles per hour. I wish him well."
Adam Dunn homered off David Huff (2-8), scored three times and accidentally barreled over Cleveland's hotshot prospect, catcher Carlos Santana.
Huff matched Strasburg through five innings, but gave up four runs in the sixth on Ivan Rodriguez's two-run double and rookie Ian Desmond's two-run triple. Desmond and Christian Guzman and three hits apiece for Washington.
Strasburg relaxed before his first road start by playing a video game in Washington's clubhouse.
Over in Cleveland's locker room, several players watched "Major League," the 1980s comedy film that depicts a fictional, fun-loving Indians team winning their division.
The players switched on the TV in time to get an on-site report about Strasburg.
"The phenom," reliever Jensen Lewis shouted. "Here we go."
Strasburg's first pitch — a 99 mph fastball for a strike to leadoff hitter Trevor Crowe — stirred the crowd, which reacted to the radar-gun posting with a collective gasp of excitement. He fanned Crowe and Shin-Soo Choo, giving him nine consecutive strikeouts over two games.
In the second inning, Hafner turned on a 100-mph heater from Strasburg, hitting a laser shot into the Nationals' bullpen in right to tie it at 1.
He ran, well, walked, into trouble in the fourth. After striking out Choo for the second time, he issued the first two walks of his career. However, showing poise beyond his years, he responded by getting Kearns to flail at a low fastball and whiffing Branyan again.
Before he took the mound in the fifth, Strasburg summoned plate umpire Brian O'Nora for a look. The right-hander pointed to a rough spot and three members of the grounds crew added dirt and tamped the area between the rubber and infield grass seemingly to the satisfaction of baseball's new star.
He gave up his second hit, a broken-bat single to Santana in the sixth, then stumbled on a delivery to Hafner. He kicked the red clay in frustration after yielding his fourth walk and again asked for mound maintenance. As the workers were dispatched, Strasburg was the target of big-league boos for the first time.
It was all love early on as Strasburgmania swept into town.
Hundreds of fans, some wearing No. 37 replica jerseys and almost all of them toting cameras, lined the stands down the right-field line as Strasburg walked onto the field before the game.
"Good luck, Stephen," one hollered.
He hardly needed it.
Strasburg played catch in the outfield before heading to the bullpen, where hundreds more fans peered over the wall at the 6-foot-4 San Diego native, who immediately began popping the catcher's glove. Meanwhile in the Indians' bullpen, Huff warmed up to an audience of 10.
In the second, Santana learned a valuable lesson in his third major league game: Don't take your eyes off Dunn.
Santana was flattened near home plate by the 6-foot-6, 287-pound first baseman, who couldn't avoid the collision. Santana moved to his left to possibly catch an overthrow to first when he inadvertently stepped into the path of the scoring Dunn.
Santana was knocked off his feet and did a backward somersault. Dunn came over to make sure he was OK. Santana, listed at 190 pounds, was not injured and seemed more embarrassed than anything as he jogged off the field.
NOTES: Browns rookie quarterback Colt McCoy visited with players on the field during pregame batting practice. He's a friend of Dunn, a star high school quarterback in Texas who signed and played one season with the Longhorns before pursuing his baseball career. ... According to Elias Sports Bureau, only one pitcher since 1900 has had more strikeouts before issuing his first career walk than Strasburg, who fanned 19 before walking Santana in the fourth. Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto struck out 22 before his first walk in 2008.