Nationals-Indians Preview

There’s a certain thrill fans get when LeBron James dunks a

basketball or Peyton Manning tosses a perfect pass. Many baseball

enthusiasts are already getting the same type of feeling when

Stephen Strasburg throws a pitch.

An overnight sensation with the talent to transcend baseball,

Strasburg is set to follow up on a dazzling debut as the Washington

Nationals try to salvage the finale of a three-game set with the

Cleveland Indians on Sunday.

Last year’s No. 1 overall draft pick had one of the best

pitching debuts in major league history, striking out 14, walking

none and reaching 100 mph on the radar gun in front of a

standing-room-only crowd as Washington beat Pittsburgh 5-2 on

Tuesday night.

Strasburg (1-0, 2.57 ERA) more than lived up to his hype, which

is only increasing. The 21-year-old right-hander taped a Top 10

list for Thursday night’s broadcast of “The Late Show with David

Letterman,” and Washington (30-33) donated to the Hall of Fame a

Strasburg hat and a ball from his major league debut.

“It’s something I’ve never seen before,” third baseman Ryan

Zimmerman said of the buzz Strasburg is generating. “Usually you

see it in basketball, in the NBA, stuff like that. Never in

baseball.”

Strasburg’s strikeouts were the most in a major league debut

since J.R. Richard fanned 15 for Houston in 1971, and tied

Detroit’s Max Scherzer for most in any game this season.

He displayed outstanding control of his fastball, complementing

it with a curve that freezes hitters. His poise is perhaps just as

impressive as his raw stuff.

“The biggest challenge is understanding that a lot of these

hitters are very advanced, they’re professionals, but I’ve really

learned to not give them too much credit,” he said. “I’ve started

to realize that my stuff can play up here.”

Though Strasburg’s talent is undeniable, detractors can point

out that his performance came against the light-hitting Pirates.

Cleveland (25-36) has had its own problems at the plate this year,

but has been outstanding of late.

The Indians rank near the bottom of the American League in runs

with 258, but have crossed the plate 33 times en route to matching

a season high with four straight wins, including a 7-1 victory over

the Nationals on Saturday night in this series’ middle game.

Indians first baseman Russell Branyan had three hits including a

solo homer. Branyan is batting .345 (10 for 29) with six RBIs in

his last eight home games.

Cleveland catcher Carlos Santana homered and drove in three runs

in his second career game.

“Carlos gave us a bit of a glimpse of what he can do,” Indians

manager Manny Acta said.

Santana, who hit .316 with 13 homers and 51 RBIs in 57 games for

Triple-A Columbus before being called up Friday, will likely be

batting third in the lineup again as he faces Strasburg in a

matchup of top prospects.

Santana had a reputation as a player who needed work behind the

plate, but has done a good job of handling pitchers thus far. Acta

praised the Columbus coaching staff for preparing Santana for the

majors.

“He’s nowhere near what he looked like in spring training,” Acta

said.

If Santana is behind the plate again, he’ll be catching David

Huff (2-7, 5.46).

The left-hander has been at his best at home, going 2-2 with a

3.12 ERA in four starts. Huff gave up three unearned runs and eight

hits in six innings of a 3-2 home loss to Boston on Tuesday

night.

He has never faced the Nationals.