WASHINGTON — Stephen Strasburg went beyond the hype — and anyone's reasonable expectations — by striking out 14 in his electric major-league debut.
With a standing-room-only crowd cheering at every chance, the Nationals phenom put on a dazzling display of power pitching Tuesday night in a 5-2 win over the Pirates. His fastballs reached 100 mph, and batters found his nasty curves nearly impossible to hit.
"I just wanted to go out and soak up everything. It only happens once, and I've been waiting for this my whole life," Strasburg said.
Last year's No. 1 overall draft pick — the one with the record $15.1 million contract — threw his first pitch 97 mph and got stronger as the game progressed. He struck out the last seven batters he faced, and all nine Pirates in the starting lineup fanned at least once.
The right-hander, 21, was pulled after seven innings and took a curtain call. He allowed four hits, two earned runs and no walks, piling up the most strikeouts in a big-league debut since J.R. Richard fanned 15 for Houston in 1971. Karl Spooner struck out 15 in his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1954.
Strasburg tied the Tigers' Max Scherzer for most strikeouts in a game in the majors this season. Scherzer had 14 on May 30 against Oakland.
Strasburg was removed for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the seventh with a 4-2 lead.
"I just wanted to go out there and say I've had my first outing in the big leagues," he said. "I've had a great time."
He threw 94 pitches, and 65 were strikes. He made one noticeable mistake, a 90 mph changeup that Delwyn Young golfed into the first row in rightfield for a two-run homer in the fourth inning.
That gave the Pirates a 2-1 lead, but the Nationals put their rookie in position to win with three runs in the sixth. Adam Dunn hit a two-run homer, and Josh Willingham followed with a solo shot, allowing Strasburg to leave with a two-run lead.
Tyler Clippard pitched the eighth and Matt Capps the ninth for his 19th save.