Beyond the left field fence at Surprise Stadium, the billboard-sized scoreboard displays the line-score of the game, balls, strikes and outs. And at the bottom of the sign, between the Budweiser and the Bud Lite advertisements is a collection of lights, with the caption “MPH”. The casual fan could be excused if he or she thought that part of the scoreboard wasn’t working today, because the first two times Stephen Strasburg threw a pitch, the display showed “00″. I was convinced it wasn’t working until the third pitch, when the MPH display showed “01″.
The radar gun just confirmed what anyone watching already knew: these were extraordinary pitches from an extraordinary pitcher. One could go through most of a season of Major League games and see but a handful of pitches that exceeded 100 MPH. But here in Surprise StadiumÂ clearly something special was happening. It seemed every pitch that left Strasburg’s handÂ put goose-eggs on the radar gun. Â A friend of mine who attended the game with me, but who has never seen a Major League game in person watched the top half of the first inning, and when Strasburg took his first few pitches in the bottom of the first, she actually gasped in amazement. “Even I can tell.” she said.
She wasn’t alone. The crowd of about 300 sat in complete silence – the only sounds wereÂ the hum of the air conditioners and the pop of baseballs against leather. Nobody cheered or clapped. They watched.
When Strasburg left the game at the end of the fifth inning, the crowd seemed to wake up and realize they were watching a baseball game. The fans started to clap and cheer – though AFL crowds tend to be small and quiet.
All it all it was a great day for the Desert Dogs, who won the game 10-2. It was a great day for the Nationals, too.Â Chris Marrero (DH) and Danny Espinosa (SS) both had spectacular days, with Marerro going two-for-five with five RBIs and Espinosa two-for-four with a walk, scoring three runs. Nationals relief pitchers also had great days, with Josh Wilkie, Jeff Mandel and Drew Storen each pitching an inning in relief. Mandel allowed the only other run of the game.