This afternoon will likely present the most electric atmosphere at Progressive Field this season. Unfortunately, it’s not on account of the home team. Stephen Strasburg is a pitching prospect who has come up with unparalleled hype. In his first ever major league start this past Tuesday night, he electrified his home crowd in Washington with 14 strikeouts. He struck out the side 3 times and finished the game striking out 8 of the last 9 batters he faced.
His second start this afternoon at Progressive Field will put the Tribe on national TV at home for the first time this season. The Indians are expecting a huge walk-up crowd and the highest attendance of the season, save for the opening day sellout. They have sold more than 9,000 tickets to the game since Tuesday night when Strasburg’s debut managed to outshine even an NBA finals game. It is looking 30-35 thousand will be on hand. He is the main attraction and the Indians souvenir stands clearly agree. A lot of you who have decided in the past week to head down to the game are not going to see the Indians. This raises a dilemma: we likely know why you’re going, but what do you want to see today at the park once you get there?
While I have seen a majority of the Indians games on TV this season, I have been unable to make it down to the park much at all. I got on the phone and computer immediately Tuesday night knowing that I would do everything in my power to be there on Sunday. I am going to see Stephen Strasburg. Through the years, I have gone to a lot of Cleveland games where the main draw was the opponent but never weighted so disproportionately towards that opponent than today. I went to a number of Cavs games but I always tried to go to every Cavs game at the old Coliseum when Jordan came to town. But I attended with every intention of seeing a great Cavs win, even if the draw was Jordan. The same applies for the annual Lakers visit – they are a huge draw but you are still going to see your great team try and beat them. I used to try and catch every start Randy Johnson would make when the Mariners would visit but while I was going expecting to be impressed by Johnson and his fastball, I was still hoping for the Tribe to rough him up and win the game.
With Indians franchise in a rough patch, I am not exactly sure what I want to see happen today. As with every game, your mood and enthusiasms change as the contest progresses. But I suppose if you injected me with truth serum, I would probably admit that I am hoping to see a dominating and electrifying performance from Stephen Strasburg today. I want to witness a performance comparable to his debut, which almost certainly means I enter the park wanting to see a Tribe loss. It’s a little different with baseball when your team has 161 other games, especially this season where so many of those games mean nothing when it comes to contending. It helps that the Nats are not a rival and a fairly innocuous team. Strasburg also seems like a good and humble kid. I am thinking I want to see something memorable at the expense of my team.
Even though it’s been a brutal 12 months for my baseball team, I still watch almost every game and want to see the young players develop. A winning club would surpass expectations at this point. I know Stasburg’s second start is less meaningful than his debut but the hype and success at the beginning of his career arc have me more excited to go to a Tribe game than I’ve been in awhile.
As for the Indians, they plan to slow Strasburg down and stunt his momentum between pitches. He walked no one on Tuesday and was rarely behind in the count. They plan to try and work the count today and get him out of the game as early as possible:
“It looked like he was rushing those guys,” first baseman Russell Branyan said. “Throwing three or four quality pitches, and guys were panicking. We’re going to have to zone him in and make him throw strikes if we’re going to have any success. This is a guy with a plus fastball, plus curveball, plus changeup and plus cutter. He has a blessed arm…He’s one of those guys who come around once every 10 or 15 years,” Branyan said of Strasburg. “I’m sure he’ll have no problem bouncing back [from his debut]. They were pitching him every five days in the Minors. It just looks like a guy we’re going to have to try to pile up some quality at-bats on. Try to get his pitch count up and get him out after five.”
If the Indians can do that, they have a chance to extend their win streak to 5 games – their longest of the season. Last night’s game was one of the most exciting to watch all season – Santana was raking with his first MLB hit and homer and Fausto was filthy. The team is playing well which exacerbates the dilemma.
You never know what to expect once a baseball game starts. But I head down to today’s game to see Stephen Strasburg and I’m also fairly sure that I want to see him light it up once I’m there. ”Rapid Robert” Feller will be in attendance to see the hyped pitcher. Judging by his outrage and admonishment of LeBron for wearing a Yankees hat, I may want to avoid him if I do find myself enthralled by and rooting for the Nats ace. I hope this doesn’t make me a bad fan. Can you think of comparable dilemmas in your years attending Cleveland sports events?