2011: A Chiefs Odyssey – Kevin’s Number 2

#2 – Return of the King

Before 2011, I would rank my favorite annual holidays in the following order (note: I say annual because otherwise the release of The Dark Knight Rises on July 20, 2012 would trump all of these) –

5. Flag Day/Veterans Day/Memorial Day

4. Easter

3. Thanksgiving

2. Festivus

1. Christmas

After 2011, sorry days of patriotism, you’ve been released – Strasmus is definitely going in the Top 5.  (Don’t worry, Festivus, you’re safe.)

Stephen Strasburg took the baseball world by storm in 2010 when he exploded on the scene with Harrisburg, Syracuse, and eventually the Nationals.  The right-handed phenom was 7-2 with a 1.30 ERA in the minors and 5-3 with a 2.91 ERA in 12 major league starts.  But then – on an August 21 start against Philadelphia – disaster struck.  Strasburg was taken out of the game after a pitch to Domonic Brown with an apparent shoulder injury.  It was one.  A torn ulnar collateral ligament meant Strasburg had to have Tommy John surgery and miss nearly a year of action.

But a quick recovery – criticized as perhaps too quick – put Strasburg back on a minor league diamond on August 7 with Hagerstown.  And after a few starts – some dominating, some not so much – the “most hyped and closely watched pitching prospect in the history of baseball” (Sports Illustrated’s words, and I’d tend to agree) returned to the Alliance Bank Stadium mound.

The fervor was a bit muted from Strasburg’s initial surge through Syracuse in 2010 – but not much.  A packed lower bowl and a crowd of nearly 10,000 made its way to Alliance Bank Stadium – and Strasburg delivered in his fifth rehab start with astonishing results.

First inning: Strikeout swinging.  Groundout.  Groundout.

Second inning: Strikeout swinging.  Strikeout swinging.  Strikeout swinging. (Gulp.)

Third inning: Groundout.  Groundout.  Groundout. (Efficient.)

Fourth inning: Groundout.  Strikeout swinging.  Strikeout swinging.

Fifth inning: Groundout.  Flyout. (The only one of the game)  Strikeout – you guessed it – swinging.

It was, simply put, the most dominant pitching effort I’ve ever seen in person, and I have a hard time thinking of one I watched on TV either.  It seemed like Strasburg could throw 15 innings and not allow a baserunner.

Of course, the story turned when Rochester strung together a few singles in the sixth, knocking out Strasburg at 64 pitches.  It didn’t seem like he’d expect to return for the sixth inning, with a pitch count of 65 nearly reached – but a quick duo of batters ended the righthander’s night.

Maybe it’s because I was only around for one of Strasburg’s starts in 2010, and that was as the official scorer – but I’ve never been so awed by an athlete’s performance from my press box seat.  It was a merry Strasmus, indeed.

JB, time for your #1…I’m guessing Jeff Frazier’s second pitching performance tops the list?

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