Strasburg's debut ends with NL POW Award
Rangers' Hamilton, Lewis take home AL hardware
Twenty-two strikeouts and two wins. Not bad for a first week in the big leagues.
Now Nationals rookie Stephen Strasburg can add Bank of America Player of the Week accolades to his list as the young phenom was named the National League's recipient, joining Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton and right-hander Colby Lewis, who share the American League honors.
But it was Strasburg's week that really stole the headlines around baseball. And if his first two starts were any indication, this won't be his last piece of hardware. The right-hander struck out 14 batters without walking any in his debut against the Pirates last Tuesday. Strasburg came within one strikeout of tying the Major League record for K's in a debut, set by Karl Spooner in 1954 and J.R. Richard in '71.
He finished his first start by striking out the final seven batters, capped by a heater that struck out Andy LaRoche.
"The adrenaline was definitely flowing there," Strasburg said. "I was just going to throw the ball as hard as I can. Luckily I was able to put it where he wasn't swinging."
His results from start one even awed catcher Ivan Rodriguez, who has seen some big ballgames from the behind the plate during his storied career.
"This kid is unbelievable," said Rodriguez. "He's always in the strike zone. He just attacks the strike zone."
He continued to impress in his second start on the road in Cleveland, striking out eight more batters. The rookie hurler did hit his first snag when he struggled with the mound conditions later in the game and ended up walking five batters. But even when he wasn't at his best, Strasburg still left the Indians swinging and missing.
"The first three or four innings, he was outstanding," manager Jim Riggleman said. "He had all of his pitches going -- again striking people out. I'm sure it was a challenge for the Indians' hitters, who took some pitches that resulted in walks and a rally. We were fortunate that [Drew] Storen was able to come in and shut it down."
Strasburg's American League counterparts may not have received the same hype over the past week, but their numbers rank among some of the week's most impressive performances. Hamilton and Lewis were both so strong over the past seven days that they ended up sharing the award, something that hasn't happened in the AL since Boston teammates Trot Nixon and Pedro Martinez did it in July 2002.
Lewis nearly matched Strasburg in his numbers this week, finishing with a 2-0 record and 15 strikeouts. He notched a 1.80 ERA over those starts, including a commanding 10-strikeout performance on Sunday against Milwaukee. It was his fourth 10-strikeout day of the season, a mark no Rangers pitcher has hit since Nolan Ryan did so in 1991. Even more impressive, hitting because of playing in an NL park, Lewis went 2-for-4, including a big two-run single to secure the win.
"Man, I'll tell you, he looked good," said his co-award winner Hamilton. "And on top of that, pitching a good game. He did a great job with the bat. It looks like he's done that before."
Hamilton had a pretty good game that day, too, to cap a week that saw him hit .370 and propel the Rangers to a 5-2 record over that span. In addition, Hamilton has now homered in four of his past five contests.
The first overall pick in the 1999 First-Year Player Draft had a huge series against the Rangers' division-rival Mariners, knocking two homers and collecting nine RBIs. Part of his outburst can be attributed to the outfielder continuing to tinker with his mechanics.
"I'm finally figuring out how to adapt my batting stance into everything but the tap," Hamilton said. "It was a couple of pieces that I couldn't really put a finger on when [former hitting coach] Rudy [Jaramillo] was here. It never got comfortable. Right now, it seems to be comfortable, which is really a blessing."
It was the first Player of the Week award for both Hamilton and Lewis. Lewis is the first Rangers hurler to win the award since Kenny Rogers did so after throwing his perfect game in 1994.
Bailey Stephens is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.