Strasburg shines in Triple-A debut

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- If one outing in Triple-A ball can serve as a barometer, Stephen Strasburg will have a short stay with the Syracuse Chiefs.

Strasburg, the top pick in the 2009 draft by the Washington Nationals, allowed just one hit and no runs in six innings in winning his first outing in the International League on Friday night. He threw 65 pitches, 45 for strikes, against the Gwinnett Braves, striking out six (four swinging) and walking one in facing 20 batters. He also drove in two runs -- one with a single on the first pitch to him in the game and the other on a sacrifice -- and departed with a 3-0 lead. Pete Orr added a solo homer in the seventh and the Chiefs won 7-0.

Before moving to the top level of the minor leagues, Strasburg went 3-1 with a 1.64 ERA in five starts with Double-A Harrisburg. He struck out an Eastern League-high 27, allowed 13 hits, and walked six in 22 innings. He ranked first in the league in strikeout-to-walk ratio and strikeouts per nine innings.

His performance against the Braves lowered his earned-run average to 1.29 in six starts in the minors.

Even in Strasburg's one defeat Sunday, the 21-year-old right-hander's stuff was stellar. It was no different on this night to the delight of the 13,766 hometown fans, a franchise record.

Strasburg breezed through the first inning, retiring the side in order on 16 pitches and striking out two. He retired the first batter, left-handed swinging Matt Young, on a groundout to second after starting with consecutive fastballs of 96, 97, and 98 mph.

Gregor Blanco, another lefty, faked a bunt on Strasburg's first offering, a 97 mph fastball. When the count reached 2-2, the sellout crowd began to chant and Strasburg responded with an 82 mph curve that Blanco took for a called third strike.

Strasburg mixed it up a little more against right-handed Brent Clevlen and struck him out swinging on a 97 mph fastball that clipped the inside corner. Of the 16 pitches he threw in the opening inning, only four were under 96 mph.

The second inning was even smoother. Strasburg retired the side in order on six pitches on three infield groundouts, easily handling a comebacker off the bat of Joe Thurston.

And when the Chiefs took the early lead, it was Strasburg who drove home the game's first run. After Seth Bynum doubled to left center, Strasburg hit the first pitch from loser Ryne Reynoso up the middle for an RBI single and a 1-0 lead.

Strasburg took the mound in the third with a .375 batting average and two RBIs in just six games of pro ball, and his repertoire on the mound continued to impress.

The Braves failed again in the third to get a man aboard as Strasburg retired the side on six pitches for the second straight time. Two came on first-pitch groundouts and the third was a strikeout as he got Clint Sammons swinging on a 1-2 pitch -- a 79 mph curve that Sammons waved at weakly as it sailed past the outside corner.

The Braves finally reached Strasburg for a hit in the fourth when Blanco bounced a slow-rolling single up the middle. Strasburg responded by striking out Clevlen on a check swing on an 81 mph curve off the outside of the plate and getting Barbaro Canizares on a groundout to short.

The Chiefs made it 3-0 in the bottom of the fourth, and Strasburg had a hand in that, too. Mike Morse doubled to center and Chase Lambin followed with an RBI double into the right-field corner. Lambin moved to third on a groundout by Bynum and Carlos Maldonado walked to put runners at the corners.

With the infield charging as Strasburg squared to bunt, he dropped a soft sacrifice down the third-base line and Lambin scored on a headfirst slide when the relay back home from first was too late.

Joe Thurston led off the fifth for the Braves with a walk on a 3-2 pitch after taking the first three offerings from Strasburg for balls. Strasburg averted trouble by getting J.C. Holt on a forceout and Luis Bolivar and Clint Sammons on groundouts to third.

Strasburg departed to a standing ovation after getting Blanco on another called third strike to end the sixth. This time, Blanco took an 81 mph curveball on a 3-2 pitch as Strasburg rallied after falling behind 3-0 on the count.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.