Strasburg set for sequel to amazing debut

Strasburg set for sequel to amazing debut

CLEVELAND -- After one game, first baseman Adam Dunn anointed right-hander Stephen Strasburg the ace of the Nationals' pitching staff.

Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman is already at the point where he believes Washington can win every fifth day when Strasburg is on the mound.

On Sunday afternoon, Strasburg will make his second Major League start when he faces the Indians at Progressive Field. According to published reports, the Indians have already sold 8,000 more tickets since it was announced that Strasburg was going to make the start.

Nationals manager Jim Riggleman believes his players will feed off the large crowd for Strasburg.

"I think quite often you get a better brand of baseball when you get more people at the game," he said. "It shouldn't be that way, but it is. You see intense, great ballgames in a postseason. The ballpark is packed. Obviously, you have good teams playing. The intensity of the players is really honed in pitch-to-pitch. ... It's great for baseball fans, because they are going to see good baseball.

On Tuesday night, a sellout ground saw a better brand of baseball at Nationals Park, as Strasburg made his big league debut and pitched seven innings, allowed two runs on four hits while he fanned 14 batters and walked none.

"Unbelievable," veteran right-hander Livan Hernandez said. "He threw every pitch for a strike. His curveball was amazing and his fastball was topped at 101 mph. It's unbelievable. For a young [player] who is making his Major League debut, you never see that in baseball.

"On TV, I saw a reporter compare him to Mark Prior and Kerry Wood, but this guy is different. This is not going to be the last time he is going to throw like this. He will be on top of his game. He is a good kid, very quiet. He is working hard every day to get better. He is going to help the team win a lot of games."

Dating back to his days in the Minor Leagues, Strasburg could see that his teammates were feeding off him.

"I did start to see that, especially in the games I pitched," Strasburg said. "It seemed guys stepped up the intensity level down in the Minor Leagues, especially being in front of a big crowd. It's obviously great to see and hopefully we can keep it rolling here."

Strasburg's presence has become similar to what Michael Jordan went through during his prime in the NBA. Fans and media go to the ballpark just to see Strasburg. The Indians even have a store where they are strictly selling Strasburg merchandise.

The Nationals are aware of all the attention Strasburg is getting. That's why reporters are not allowed to talk to him until after each start.

"I try and stay away from all the media stuff," Strasburg said. "I'm excited to be up here, I'm excited to be with this group of players. We got a lot of talent up here and we're all trying to come together and win some ballgames. That's the bottom line."

The buzz is so great around Strasburg that he overshadowed the NBA Finals between the Lakers and Celtics on Tuesday.

"His performance was so amazing that that's where it's coming from," Riggleman said. "Right now, all the highlights are Lakers-Celtics and Stephen Strasburg because that's' the biggest things that happened. ... So I'm not surprised, because of what he did. The surprise would be how much attention was on the buildup. It's really been building for a long time. ... Again, we kind of had to do that for our fans. Our fans wanted to know when he's pitching and we made an announcement so that people would not be misled as to when he was pitching."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.