WASHINGTON — There was plenty to savor from the major league debut of Washington's pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg, from his first strikeout against the third batter he faced to hitting 100 mph with a fastball in the second inning to fanning his last seven opposing batters in a superb, 14-strikeout performance.
So what sticks out most in the mind of the 21-year-old right-hander after he picked up his first big league win in the Nationals' 5-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday night?
"The only thing I really remember is the first pitch: ball inside. Everything else was such a blur," Strasburg said. "At one point, I lost track of how many innings I threw."
So much for cherishing every big league moment.
"It's kind of like when you get married," Strasburg said. "You go into it wanting to really remember everything, and once it is done, you can't remember a single thing."
Lucky for the kid that his big night was witnessed by more than 200 media members and a standing-room-only crowd of 40,315, the second sellout and second-largest announced attendance at Nationals Park this season, behind only Opening Day.
The fans were stoked from the moment the gates opened.
Before Strasburg had taken off his red pullover, stepped onto a mound or thrown his initial big league pitch, he had already received his first standing ovation by walking from the bullpen to the dugout.
He gazed ahead, not acknowledging the roaring fans. But the moment was too much, too absurd for Nationals pitching coach and baseball lifer Steve McCatty, who strolled alongside Strasburg and playfully doffed his own cap to more cheers.
"I was a little nervous, and [McCatty] started to joke with me," Strasburg said. "He was like: 'Yeah, they are all here for me. What are you talking about?' So that put a smile on my face and loosened me up a lot."
No one could overshadow Strasburg on this night.
Coming one day shy of the one-year anniversary of his being taken No. 1 overall out of San Diego State in 2009's first-year player draft, Strasburg's inaugural foray on the big stage couldn't have gone much better.
"There was definitely a little bit of nerves," said Strasburg, who allowed two runs on four hits and walked none while throwing 94 pitches in seven innings. "I thought I was going to be a lot more nervous than I was."
After his stunning performance, which was aided by three Nationals home runs, Strasburg stood in front of the home dugout conducting a TV interview as he was hit in the face with two shaving-cream pies -- much to the delight of the "STE-PHEN STRAS-BURG"-chanting fans.
Remove his fourth inning, when he allowed two singles and a two-run homer to Delwyn Young, and Strasburg was almost perfect. In the other six innings, he surrendered one hit and struck out 14 of the 19 batters he faced.
"This kid is unbelievable," said Nationals catcher Ivan Rodriguez, a likely Hall of Famer.
"The amazing thing is he is around the plate, he throws strikes. Especially guys that young like Stephen, they have trouble and get behind in the count. But he didn't do that."
Using a fastball that sat at 99 mph much of the night, a knee-buckling curve and a tremendous changeup, he bested the Nationals' previous record of 13 strikeouts in a game, set by John Patterson in 2005, and his seven straight strikeouts to end his outing tied the club's record for most consecutive, set by reliever Chris Schroder in 2006.
Only the Houston Astros' J.R. Richard in 1971 and the Brooklyn Dodgers' Karl Spooner in 1954 struck out more in their major league debuts; both fanned 15. "He's his own guy," said Pirates outfielder Lastings Milledge, who singled once and struck out twice against Strasburg. "Out of all the hard throwers, there's no one who commands the ball like he does."
Strasburg's start might have been the most anticipated debut in the history of baseball, given the way he blowtorched the minors, going 7-2 with a 1.30 ERA and recording 65 strikeouts in 55 1/3 combined innings at Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse.
"I have been to World Series games and all of that. And that's unique, but we have media levels here that are on that scale," Nationals president Stan Kasten said. "For a Tuesday evening in June against Pittsburgh, what does that tell you? It means the attraction of this is off the charts. I think it is fair to say it is unprecedented. I think it's fair to say we have never seen anything like this in baseball."
Tickets to Tuesday's game, in some instances, were going for triple digits.
"We overpaid, no question," said Alan Marx of Potomac, who brought his son, Jared, a college student, and said he paid $120 per seat. "But that's what fathers are supposed to do for their sons."
Many fans headed immediately into the stadium store to buy Strasburg jerseys.
"Biggest day for the franchise," Nationals fan Ray Mitten said as he examined a red Strasburg T-shirt reading "Welcome to the Show." And it wasn't just Nationals fans at the stadium.
"I was a diehard [Orioles fan] growing up, and I still am," said Russ Lease, 54, of Columbia.
"This feels like possibly a sense of history. I wasn't at Jim Palmer's first game, but maybe I can make up for it tonight."
Strasburg retired the first five batters he faced and the final 10. He hit 100 mph with his 21st pitch of the night and 99 mph on his last, a strikeout of Andy LaRoche. In between, he made one mistake and gained a whole lot of believers.
"I'm proud of him, I'm proud of the organization, the city of Washington," Rodriguez said. "The fans came to see what they wanted to see. I mean, there is nothing better than that, 14 strikeouts. The kid pitched seven innings. Good show. He really did great."
Baltimore Sun reporter Jeff Barker contributed to this article.