Stephen Strasburg struck out a career-high nine in the longest outing of his young Minor League career, throwing 6 1/3 scoreless innings for his third win as Syracuse beat Rochester, 5-1, on Wednesday night.
Strasburg didn't dominate as he did in his previous hitless effort, but he still worked into the seventh inning for the first time and escaped brief trouble. The hard-throwing right-hander has allowed just four hits over 18 1/3 scoreless Triple-A innings.
According to a report Tuesday in the Washington Post, the Nationals may bring up Strasburg (3-0, 0.00 ERA at Triple-A) to make his Major League debut June 4 against the Reds following two more outings for Syracuse.
"I'm just going to get ready for my next start in Syracuse," Strasburg told MLB.com. "The rest will take care of itself."
He threw 92 pitches -- 60 for strikes -- and allowed three hits and a pair of walks in his third Triple-A outing.
The hits, though, weren't line drives. Trevor Plouffe reached in the third when he dribbled a grounder to the left side and beat out third baseman Chase Lambin's bare-handed throw. Jose Morales bounced a leadoff single up the middle in the fourth before Jason Repko snuck a seeing-eye single up the middle in the fifth, just out of the reach of diving shortstop Pedro Lopez.
"I still need to work on command of all my pitches in the zone," Strasburg said. "I need to work on my bulldog mentality, and I need to be better at identifying weaknesses of opposing hitters and trying to exploit them."
Strasburg got most of his strikeouts with a sharp curveball. He got ahead with his trademark upper-90s fastball, reaching 96 on his final pitch when he struck out Danny Valencia looking to begin the seventh.
The San Diego State product set the bar high after his first two starts, in which he gave up just one hit over 12 innings. He allowed baserunners in four of his first five innings on Wednesday, partly due to a pair of errors, but worked out of trouble each time.
He allowed the leadoff batter to reach in the second, third and fourth innings, but used a pair of double plays to end two of the threats. Jose Morales drew a leadoff walk in the second and Dustin Martin reached on a throwing error by second baseman Eric Bruntlett, but Strasburg induced a double-play grounder from Valencia and struck out Major League veteran Jacque Jones to end the frame.
Strasburg dealt with more runners an inning later when Brock Peterson reached on a fielding error by Lopez, but Repko bounced into a double play. Matt Tolbert walked and stole second before Plouffe reached on his infield single, but Strasburg got Brian Dinkelman looking to end the inning.
"It was good to see them there," Strasburg said of pitching with runners on base, "because that's part of baseball. They're going to be there sooner or later."
It was the first Triple-A road start for Strasburg, but he got the royal treatment anyway. Originally slated to pitch Tuesday, his start was pushed back a day due to rain. Then the Nationals and Chiefs agreed to Rochester's request to have the 2009 No. 1 overall pick start the second game of Wednesday's doubleheader so more fans would be able to see him.
The Nationals sent a crew of giant racing mascots to the ballpark in Strasburg's honor, and when the tall right-hander was pulled in the seventh, he received a standing ovation from the Red Wings fans. According to the Associated Press, though, the cheers turned to boos after Strasburg did not acknowledge the crowd.
"We want to stretch him out, have him go deeper into the game, and let the opposing team see him for a third time through the order," Syracuse manager Trent Jewett told MLB.com.
So what's next for Strasburg? He lines up to start Monday at home against Toledo. Speculation continues to surround the righty, especially since former teammate Drew Storen -- a fellow first-round pick from last June, was promoted earlier in the week. Storen picked up the win for Washington in his Major League debut, minutes before Strasburg's win became official.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.