Pittsburgh appeared to be catching up with the phenom as the game wore on and opened the fourth inning with consecutive singles by Neil Walker and Lastings Milledge. Strasburg got out of that jam by getting Garrett Jones to hit into a 6-4-3 double play, but Delwyn Young responded with his third home run of the season to give the Pirates a one-run lead.
While Young's homer was the first reality check for Strasburg in the Majors, the right-hander responded by shutting down the Pirates the rest of the way en route to an electrifying victory. Strasburg set a Nationals record with 14 strikeouts, including the last seven batters he faced.
"We have to give him credit, because he has to have phenomenal skills to get to where he is so fast," Young said. "But he was facing a clubhouse full of big league hitters, so as the game goes on, you make adjustments from what you've seen and try to do better than what you did in your last at-bat."
Young's homer was only the second allowed by Strasburg at any professional level this season. The Pirates were hoping to find a comfort zone against him after going through the order, but Pittsburgh managed only four hits, and by the end of the game, there was nothing the players could do but tip their hat.
"Once we got a couple of runners on base and got him out of the stretch, I think we were able to kind of get a better feel for him," Pirates second baseman Neil Walker said. "I don't think it threw him out of his comfort zone, but I think you could tell it kind of changed the pace of the game."
Young's home run breathed life into the Pirates' bench. Even starter Jeff Karstens was hoping to use the momentum to shut down the Nationals. Instead, Karstens gave up the lead by allowing a two-run home run to Adam Dunn that was immediately followed by another home run by Josh Willingham in the sixth.
"When Delwyn hit that home run early, I was able to settle down," Karstens said.
Pirates manager John Russell was also hoping Young's home run would be a springboard for a rally. Instead, the club watched Strasburg settle down and look more like a seasoned veteran than a rookie making his first Major League start.
"He's human," Russell said of Strasburg. "He's going to give up some runs. He is the type of pitcher that is going to have some dominant games. He has the stuff to do it."
Todd Karpovich is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.