Strasburg live-blog: Triple-A edition
8:45 p.m.: Props to the Syracuse crowd. With two outs in the sixth, and a 3-2 count on Gregor Blanco, most of the fans at the stadium were on their feet, recognizing this would be Strasburg's final batter. After Blanco fouled off a 95-mph heater, Strasburg froze him with an 81-mph curve, then bounded off the mound as the crowd roared. This was a simply dominant performance by the phenom: 6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 K. His ground-out to fly-out ratio was 12-to-0. He threw 65 pitches, 45 for strikes. And to reiterate: the only ball to leave the infield was the weak grounder up the middle by Blanco in the fourth.
8:22 p.m.: Strasburg had to work a little in the fifth, after Joe Thurston drew a leadoff walk -- just the second baserunner he has allowed tonight. But the sinker is working for Strasburg tonight, and he got three quick grounders to end the inning. Blanco's dribbler up the middle remains the only ball to leave the infield against the phenom tonight. Fifty-three pitches through five, with 37 strikes.
8:12 p.m.: Strasburg just collected another RBI -- that would be four in 10 plate appearances -- on a sacrifice bunt, giving the Chiefs a 3-0 lead. With runners on first and third and one out, Strasburg got the bunt down. Chase Lambin, the runner on third, broke halfway down the line, then stopped -- a kind of safety squeeze -- but took off for the plate when the third baseman, who fielded the bunt, threw to first. Lambin scored just ahead of the throw home.
8:01 p.m.: I've seen Strasburg pitch now about 10 times, and this is probably the most dominant I've ever seen him, particularly given the level of competition he's facing. He threw a lot of two-seamers again in the fourth, getting two more stikeouts -- his fourth and fifth of the game -- and one more ground out. He still hasn't given up a fly-ball out. He did, however, give up a base hit in the inning, on a slow grounder up the middle by Gregor Blanco. Chiefs shortstop Eric Bruntlett appeared to have a chance to make a play on it, but it snuck under his glove and into shallow center field. Strasburg's command tonight is particularly impressive. He has yet to face a single three-ball count, and he has only gone 2-0 to a hitter once. He has also thrown first-pitch strikes to nine of the 13 batters he has faced. Forty-two pitches through four innings, with 31 strikes.
7:45 p.m.: Strasburg leaned on the two-seamer again in the third, getting two more quick, ground-ball outs. The other out was a four-pitch strikeout of catcher Clint Sammons, Strasburg's third victim of the night. With a 1-1 count, Strasburg froze Sammons with a curve at the knees, then came back with another curve that Sammons hacked at weakly for strike three. Nine up, nine down. Twenty-eight pitches through three innings, 22 for strikes.
7:37 p.m.: OK, this is getting ridiculous with Strasburg's bat. With a runner on second and two outs, and facing Braves right-hander Ryne Reynoso, Strasburg just lined an RBI single up the middle, giving the Chiefs a 1-0 lead. (And by the way, I called it in the press box: "This will be an RBI single." So the other writers here think I'm pretty smart.) He's now hitting .375 for the season (3 for 8), with three RBI.
7:32 p.m.: Strasburg broke out the two-seamer in the second inning, coaxing three quick ground-outs and closing out in the inning in a tidy six pitches (all of them two-seam fastballs, and five of them for strikes). One of the ground-outs was a one-hop comebacker to the mound that required a nifty little play from Strasburg, who knocked it down, picked it up and tossed it gently to first for the out. Twenty-two pitches so far, including 17 strikes.
7:17 p.m.: A strong first inning for the phenom: a grounder to second and a pair of strikeouts, one looking and one swinging. Strasburg's fastball was clocking in between 96 and 99 mph, and his curve ball has its typically ridiculous bite. He froze Gwinnett Braves left fielder Gregor Blanco with a 2-2 curve for the second out, after Blanco gamely fouled back a pair of 99-mph fastballs. The next batter, Brent Clevlen, didn't stand a chance, waving at a pair of 97-mph fastballs to fall behind 0-2. Then, after Strasburg missed with a pair of curves, Clevlen swung and missed at another 97-mph fastball. All told, Strasburg threw 16 pitches in the inning, 12 of them for strikes. He's on a limit of 90 pitches or six innings tonight, whichever comes first.
6:50 p.m.: Greetings from Syracuse, where everyone I've met has another story about Kilgore's bacchanalian exploits as a student at SU. We're here, of course, for Stephen Strasburg's debut with the Class AAA Syracuse Chiefs. As we speak, The Phenom is warming up in the bullpen, with about a thousand fans pressed against the railing to get a glimpse.
It's going to be a sell-out crowd at Alliance Bank Stadium, which seats about 12,000 fans, and hopefully the weather holds up. Strasburg got rained upon in his last four starts at Class AA Harrisburg, and there is rain in the forecast tonight, although the last report I heard had it holding off until after 10 p.m.
I spoke yesterday to Chiefs Manager Trent Jewett, who will be the ringmaster of the Strasburg circus for the next few weeks, and here is what he said about what Strasburg will be facing at this level:
"You get to compete with men and you get to be teammates with men," Jewett said. "There's not many boys left at this level. It's guys with experience -- some on the way up, some in the middle, and some on the way down. But that experience is golden, and there'll be a lot of lessons to be learned....
"There's a lot he'll encounter. Now, his stuff will overcome some of that. But at the Double-A level, there's probably two or three guys that are going to put tough, tough at-bats on you. At this level, there's probably four or five, and at the next level, there's no let-ups, except for the nine spot. They're all good. They're all talented. They're all educated, and they can all beat you."
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