WASHINGTON -- Stephen Strasburg certainly lived up to the hype in one of the most anticipated debuts in recent memory, striking out an eye-popping 14 of the 24 Pirates he faced in Washington's 5-2 victory.
Despite being limited by a pitch count, Strasburg (1-0) lasted seven brilliant innings, allowing a mere four hits without walking a batter. He threw 65 of his 94 pitches for strikes and his strikeout total was the third-most in a debut in major league history and most for the Nationals since the franchise moved from Montreal.
The 21-year-old right-hander commanded an array of back-breaking pitches, including a fastball that was consistently in the 97-99 m.p.h range and a deadly curve that served as his strikeout pitch for most of the game.
He fanned the final seven batters he faced and his only true mistake was serving up a two-run homer to Delwyn Young in the fourth inning.
That blast gave Pittsburgh a 2-1 lead, but the 6-foot-4, 220-pound flame- thrower quickly recovered and retired the next 10 hitters before a pair of homers in the sixth put him in line for the win.
Adam Dunn hit a go-ahead two-run shot in the frame, and Josh Willingham followed with one of his own for Washington, which had lost five of six coming into the game.
Ryan Zimmerman went 3-for-4 with a home run and three runs scored, and Tyler Clippard and Matt Capps each hurled a scoreless inning of relief to seal the memorable win before a sellout crowd of 40,315.
Strasburg's seven straight strikeouts tied a franchise record, last done by Pedro Martinez on August 20, 1997 in a game against St. Louis.
"Everything was a blur. At one point I lost track of how many innings I threw. It's kind of like when you get married. You go into it wanting to remember everything and once it's done you can't remember a single thing," Strasburg said. "I just wanted to go out and have fun...It was a great experience."
The ballyhooed outing came 364 days after Washington selected Strasburg with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 draft and signed him to a four-year contract believed to be in the range of $15 million.
His meteoric rise to arguably the best pitching prospect in the game began at San Diego State, where in his final season he went 13-1 with a 1.32 earned-run average and 195 strikeouts in 15 starts, including a no-hitter in his home finale.
Strasburg continued to baffle hitters in 2010, as he pitched to a 1.30 earned run average in 11 combined starts at Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse.