Strasburg dominates with six hitless innings

Strasburg dominates with six hitless innings

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- A glimpse at the future of Washington Nationals baseball appeared on the field at Alliance Bank Stadium on Wednesday night.

After six scoreless, hitless innings from pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals' No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, relief pitching prospect Drew Storen entered to help finish off the Norfolk Tides.

Storen, the No. 10 overall pick, combined with Strasburg to hold Norfolk scoreless in the 4-0 win for the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs.

As for Strasburg, a walk to the third batter of the game and an error at shortstop in the third inning were the only miscues in his second start for the Chiefs. After the error, Strasburg went on to retire the next 11 batters.

Strasburg's final line of six innings, one walk and seven strikeouts was almost identical to his first start on Friday against the Gwinnett Braves, in which he pitched six innings, allowing one hit and one walk with six strikeouts.

"I'm focusing on what the Nationals people have been trying to have me work on," Strasburg said. "It's all development and really trying to build on things from pitching coach Randy Tomlin in Harrisburg and now up here with [Greg] Booker, so it's all about maintaining the program."

Strasburg once again dominated the opposition, needing 25 pitches to get through the first two innings. He finished with 80 pitches, 55 for strikes. He had at least one strikeout in every inning except the first, and his fastball topped out at 97 mph.

"It's about growth and him understanding his capabilities," said Chiefs manager Trent Jewett. "There was a vast difference between tonight and the other night. I thought he had to work a litter harder earlier to get it, but I thought he pitched better and more effectively tonight.

Strasburg masterfully mixed in an array of offspeed pitches, catching Norfolk batters off guard by striking out three of seven hitters on his offspeed pitches.

"The big difference tonight was the use of the changeup," said Jewett. "You just don't see changeups like that very often. It was 90 with action, and the fact that he understands it, trusts it, his arm action is applicable, it's just really mature."

The biggest threat for the 21-year-old pitcher came in the third inning. The first batter of the inning, right fielder Blake Davis, shot a laser to short that deflected off the glove of Chiefs shortstop Pedro Lopez and into center field.

The error put Davis at first with no outs, but Strasburg didn't waver. He struck out the next batter on five pitches, dropping in an 80-mph curveball after four straight blazing fastballs in the mid-90s. After a quick throw to first to check on Davis, Strasburg fired home as Davis took off for second. Chiefs catcher Carlos Maldonado landed a perfect throw to Lopez, who was covering second, tagging out Davis. Two pitches later, Strasburg finished off the batter with a 98-mph heater.

Maldonado said he tried to work in more changeups on instruction from Booker and Jewett, yet Strasburg dominated with his offspeed pitches and fastball and only faced four batters in an inning once.

"He's got great stuff and good command in every pitch -- his fastball, curveball or changeup, you can call in any count," Maldonado said.

Jennifer McCaffrey is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.