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On This Date in Sports June 8, 2010: Stramas

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One year after being drafted with the first overall pick, Stephen Strasburg makes his debut with the Washington Nationals. A crowd of 40,315 at Nationals Park is not disappointed as Strasburg allows two runs on four hits with 14 strikeouts. Stephen Strasburg earns the win as the Nationals beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-2. The 14 strikeouts are the most in a debut game since JR Richard had 15 for the Houston Astros in 1971. 

Stephen Strasburg was born on July 20, 1988, in San Diego. Growing up in San Diego, Strasburg did not become a top-rated prospect until he arrived at San Diego State. He quickly became one of the best pitchers in the NCAA, making the 2008 Olympic Team and winning a Gold Medal. As the 2009 draft arrived, Stephen Strasburg had become the consensus top pick, garnering more hype than any player taken in the first 45 years of the MLB Draft. 

The Washington Nationals were desperate for a player of a star-caliber. It had been five years since the Montreal Expos became the Nationals, and the novelty of baseball’s return had worn off. The Nationals had yet to get a star player and had two consecutive 100-loss seasons. As Strasburg was making his debut, the Nationals were selecting another hyped prospect in Bryce Harper with the number one pick in 2010. 

The Nationals would need two months of negotiating to sign Stephen Strasburg, as he signed a four-year deal worth $15.1 million establishing a new record contract signed by a draft pick. The previous record was held by Mark Prior, who got $10.5 million from the Chicago Cubs in 2001. The Strasburg deal was completed moments before the deadline, in which he would have gone back into the 2010 draft. Stephen Strasburg made his debut in the Arizona Fall League and began the 2010 season in AA with the Harrisburg Senators. After one month, he moved up AAA with the Syracuse Chiefs, where he spent a month before his call up to the majors. 

The debut of Stephen Strasburg was called “Strasmas” by ESPN as Washington fans starved for winning baseball, felt like it was Christmas morning. The Nationals were showing improvement holding a record of 27-31 under manager Jim Riggleman. The Pirates, meanwhile on their way to 105 losses, had a record of 23-34 for John Russell. Strasburg got leadoff hitter Andrew McCutchen on a soft lineout to Ian Desmond. Retiring the side in order, Stephen Strasburg earned his first strikeout against Lanstings Miledge to end the first inning. Ryan Zimmerman gave Washington a 1-0 lead with a home run in the bottom of the first off Jeff Karstens.  

Andy LaRoche got the first hit off Strasburg in the second inning, as he struck out three batters that inning. After striking out a pair in the third inning, Stephen Strasburg had a rough fourth inning, as Delwyn Young hit a two-run home run. Though trailing 2-1, Strasburg appeared to be getting stronger later in the game, as he struck out the side in the sixth inning. In the bottom of the sixth, Zimmerman led off with a single and was on base when Adam Dunn gave the Nats a 3-2 lead with a home run. Josh Willingham followed, making it 4-2 with back-to-back homers. Stephen Strasburg began the seventh inning by fanning Willie Harris. The next two batters grounded out, ending his night. 

Stephen Strasburg’s line was quite impressive as he allowed two runs on four hits without a walk. The most strikeouts for a rookie making his debut without a walk, in MLB history. Only JR Richard, with the Houston Astros in 1971 and Karl Spooner with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1954, had more strikeouts in their first game with 15. 

Stephen Strasburg would earn the win, as the Nationals added a run in the eighth to win the game 5-2. Tyler Clippard pitched the eighth, while Matt Capps earned the save for Washington. Strasburg struck out eight batters in his second start, earning the win as the Nationals beat the Cleveland Indians 9-4 in his first road start. He had ten strikeouts in his third start, a no-decision against the Chicago White Sox, lost by the Nats 2-1. Stephen Strasburg suffered his first loss in his fourth start, 1-0 against the Kansas City Royals, striking out nine batters along the way.  

Stephen Strasburg continued to impress into July when he was shut down due to injury. He returned in August, making three more starts. However, an elbow injury would end his season, as Strasburg needed Tommy John surgery to repair his ulnar collateral ligament. In 12 starts before the injury, Stephen Strasburg posted a record of 5-3, with a 2.08 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 68 innings.