Thursday, March 5, 2009
Strasburg turns in 18K performance in 5-3 SDSU win
San Diego State All-American Stephen Strasburg strikes out 18, allows five hits and two runs over 8 innings in the Aztecs' 5-3 win over No. 11-ranked USD. It is the most strikeouts ever at the Toreros' Cunningham Stadium, eclipsing the mark of 16 strikeouts posted last season by USD ace Brian Matusz.
San Diego State and USD open a four-game series today with a 2 p.m. start at the Toreros' Cunningham Stadium.
Junior right-hander Stephen Strasburg (2-0, 1.46 ERA, 27 SO in 12.1 IP) will be on the mound for the Aztecs. USD sends right-hander Scott DeNault (2-0, 1.86 ERA, 6 SO in 9.2 IP) to the mound for his first career start.
Strasburg's coming out party was in the 2008 season opener against USD when he outdueled Toreros ace Brian Matusz in his first collegiate start. Strasburg went eight innings, allowing two runs and five hits with seven strikeouts in an 11-2 Aztecs win. That game was at SDSU's Tony Gwynn Stadium. This is Strasburg's first start at USD.
Strasburg struck out 16 in his last start, a 5-2 home victory last week against Nevada. Strasburg was clocked at 102 mph on one radar gun, and I'll try to peek over the shoulders of a few scouts this afternoon to see how fast he's bringing it.
DeNault has finished his warmup pitches and we're underway.
DeNault gets out of the first without allowing a run, stranding SDSU's Brandon Decker at third base. Decker tripled with one out when USD center fielder Kevin Muno allowed a sun ball to get over his head.
The crowd, swelling to near capacity as Strasburg approaches the mound, gets louder in anticipation of the All-American's first pitch. Strasburg makes quick work of leadoff hitter Muno for his first strikeout. Steven Chatwood gets a quick strike, prompting one fan to yell out, "Show bunt. It's your only chance." Two pitches later Chatwood walks back to the dugout as Strasburg's second strikeout vicim. USD's James Meador then grounds a ball to first base and SDSU's Brandon Meredith takes it himself to end the inning.
More than two dozen scouts line the second and third rows in the stands, many of them with speed guns. Strasburg is clocked at 99 mph by most (one guy had him at 100 mph).
RANDOM ASIDE: SDSU's Ryan O'Sullivan fouled off a ball in the top of the first that just missed USD pitching coach Eric Valenzuela's Envoy parked just beyond the Toreros bullpen down the left-field line. It's a danger zone for foul balls. Valenzuela must have a zero deductible on his SUV.
The Aztecs take a 1-0 lead on Decker's infield chopper with the bases loaded.
USD came right back in the bottom of the inning when Sean Nicol led off with a booming double that got over the head of SDSU center fielder Pat Colwell and Victor Sanchez singled to center to bring Nicol home. Strasburg got out of the inning with a double play and a strikeout.
Get this: DeNault, using an effective curveball had four strikeouts in two innings. Strasburg had three.
Strasburg struck out Tony Strazzara to open the bottom of the third before No. 9 hitter Nick McCoy jumps on a fastball and sends it sailing over the left-field fence for a 2-1 Toreros lead. McCoy sprints around first before going into a trot around second. SDSU pitching coach Rusty Filter visits Strasurg, who walks the next hitter, Muno. Muno steals second. After Chatwood strikes out, Meador lines a single to right field. SDSU's Cory Vaughn comes up throwing and his throws nails Muno at the plate to end the inning.
SDSU wanted to set the tone for this four-game series by starting Strasburg here, but the No. 11-ranked Toreros have gone right after him. Meanwhile, USD is on its third pitcher in four innings as Chris Jensen and Darrin Campbell follow DeNault to the mound.
Buoyed by the 2-1 lead, a USD fan shouts out: "This isn't the Mountain West. The closest you're getting to Omaha is Utah."
A double play prevents the Aztecs from getting anything going in the top of the inning. Strasburg retires the side in order in the bottom, getting the last two batters swinging to give him seven strikeouts.
SDSU ties it 2-2 when O'Sullivan's two-out single to left field scores teammate Easton Gust from third. Strasburg retires the side in order again, and he again gets the last two batters on strikeouts. He catches McCoy looking this time around.
The Aztecs load the bases with two singles and a walk, then take a 4-2 lead on singles by Colwell and Decker. Strasburg takes it from there, striking out all three hitters he faces in the bottom of the sixth to give him 12 strikeouts for the game. After struggling a bit early on, Strasburg is sailing now. He has retired nine straight batters — seven on strikeouts.
Strasburg strikes out the side again, giving him 15 for the game. With 106 pitches, the only question is whether he will come out for the eighth.
Strasburg does return. And why not? He strikes out Jon Hotta, McCoy and Muno (who reaches on a drpped third strike) before Chatwood flies to center to end the inning. That's 18 strikeouts.
The Aztecs add an insurance run to make it 5-2.
SDSU closer Addison Reed replaces Strasburg.
Strasburg's line for the afternoon: 8 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 18 SO, 1 BB. He threw 116 pitches, including 79 for strikes.
Reed allows Meador's infield single and Sean Nicol's looping single to center. But Victor Sanchez flies out to right field, Engell looks at a called third strike for the second out. Walters singles in Meador to make it 5-3. Reed gets two quick strikes on pinch hitter Bryan Haar, wastes a pitch outside, then gets Haar swinging to end the game.