CLEVELAND - Stephen Strasburg learned life on the road isn’t always smooth.
Washington’s rookie sensation had more trouble with Cleveland’s mound than Indians hitters while lasting 5 1-3 innings during his second major league start, leading the Nationals to a 9-4 victory Sunday.
Coming off a 14-strikeout debut, Strasburg (2-0) allowed just two hits, one a home run by Travis Hafner. He struck out eight and walked five before leaving to a chorus of boos in the sixth as Washington ended Cleveland’s four-game winning streak.
Strasburg was in control from the outset, and appeared destined to dominate the Indians, who with the exception of Hafner, couldn’t catch up to his 100 mph fastball through four innings.
But the 21-year-old, who has become baseball’s newest attraction, was bothered by loose dirt on the mound and twice requested repairs.
When he was lifted by manager Jim Riggleman after walking two in the sixth to load the bases, Strasburg was booed by many of the same fans who came to see if the phenom was for real. Strasburg didn’t disappoint, but he didn’t deliver anything as sensational as his 14-K gem.
Strasburg’s appearance drew 32,876 fans, the second-largest crowd at Progressive Field this season. On hand was another pitching prodigy, 91-year-old Hall of Famer Bob Feller, who fanned 15 in his first major league start as a 17-year-old in 1936.
“It’s real refreshing to see anyone with such talent come into the league,” said Feller, who sat in his usual seat in the press box. “He’s got a good repertoire. He’ll have good days and bad, but he’ll have a lot more good than bad throwing 100 miles per hour. I wish him well.”
Adam Dunn homered off David Huff (2-8), scored three times and accidentally barreled over Cleveland’s hotshot prospect, catcher Carlos Santana.
Huff matched Strasburg through five innings, but gave up four runs in the sixth on Ivan Rodriguez’s two-run double and rookie Ian Desmond’s two-run triple. Desmond and Christian Guzman and three hits apiece for Washington.
Strasburg relaxed before his first road start by playing a video game in Washington’s clubhouse.
Over in Cleveland’s locker room, several players watched “Major League,” the 1980s comedy film that depicts a fictional, fun-loving Indians team winning the World Series.
The players switched on the TV in time to get an on-site report about Strasburg.
“The phenom,” reliever Jensen Lewis shouted. “Here we go.”
Strasburg’s first pitch — a 99 mph fastball for a strike to leadoff hitter Trevor Crowe — stirred the crowd, which reacted to the radar-gun posting with a collective gasp of excitement. He fanned Crowe and Shin-Soo Choo, giving him nine consecutive strikeouts over two games.
In the second inning, Hafner turned on a 100-mph heater from Strasburg, hitting a laser shot into the Nationals’ bullpen in right to tie it at 1.
Strasburg then retired Austin Kearns on a fly to right, fanned Russell Branyan and locked up Jhonny Peralta with an 83 mph changeup.
He ran, well, walked, into trouble in the fourth. After striking out Choo for the second time, he issued the first two walks of his career. However, showing poise beyond his years, he responded by getting Kearns to flail at a low fastball and whiffing Branyan again.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
He gave up his second hit, a broken-bat single to Santana in the sixth, then stumbled on a delivery to Hafner. He kicked the red clay in frustration after yielding his fourth walk and again asked for mound maintenance. As the workers were dispatched, Strasburg was the target of big-league boos for the first time.
It was all love early on as Strasburgmania swept into town.
HBT Extra: Strasburg lives up to the hype
June 9, 2010: Craig Calcaterra and Tiffany Simons focus on Stephen Strasburg's debut, saying that in a performance with lots of highlights, the best was that he showed he's a complete package.
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