ATLANTA -- This is the seventh season since Stephen Strasburg first took the mound for the Nationals, in a debut met with enormous expectations and hype after being selected first overall in the 2009 Draft. When you are projected as the future of the franchise from the start of your career, moments like Wednesday night might be easy to overlook because they were always thought of as fait accompli.
Strasburg struck out Braves pitcher Bud Norris to begin the third inning of the Nationals' 3-1 victory at Turner Field, to set a Nationals record (dating back to 2005) for career strikeouts. It was one of four strikeouts on the night for Strasburg, who surpassed former teammate Jordan Zimmermann to finish the day with 905 in his career.
"Yeah, it's pretty cool," said Strasburg, who allowed a run on six hits in six innings. "I don't know how long it will last. But yeah, it's cool to get the ball and add that to the collection."
Strasburg began the game needing three strikeouts to set the record, and got started in the first inning by striking out longtime nemesis Freddie Freeman, who entered the night batting 12-for-28 against Strasburg with three home runs. In the second, he fanned catcher A.J. Pierzynski on a high fastball with runners on first and second. Strasburg began the third inning with a swinging punchout of Norris on a 1-2 pitch.
Strasburg appeared to get Norris on a slider, which would be a new pitch in his arsenal that he seemed to mix in a few times throughout the night. After the game, however, Strasburg denied that he had added a slider.
"No, same stuff I've been doing in Spring Training," he said.
The franchise strikeout record comes in the first start of Strasburg's seventh season with the club, and that highly anticipated debut feels like a lifetime ago, especially considering he is in the final year of his contract with Washington.
In his short time with the Nationals, manager Dusty Baker has seen a mature Strasburg. Baker pointed to Strasburg's relatively young age, 27, combined with his experience, and predicted a big year from the right-hander.
"Experience-wise, he's a lot older, but he's very young," Baker said before the game. "Just from my experience, I think this is about the time when guys really get it together, when they come together emotionally and physiologically and spiritually. They kind of figure it out about this time."
Jamal Collier is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.