It's not often you watch a game at Fenway Park and the Red Sox seem secondary. But that was the case with Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper. They wowed everybody on Yawkey Way on Friday night.
The 23-year-old Strasburg struck out 13 in six innings, throwing fastballs that flirted with 100, a curveball that seemed unhittable and a changeup that was downright unfair.
Harper, who is 19, went 3 for 5 with a double, a long home run and three runs batted in. Not since Robin Yount in 1976 had a player so young hit a home run at Fenway.
Harper used his speed to nearly beat out a routine grounder to short in the ninth inning. He also made a nice running catch in the second inning and twice made throws that were hard to fathom.
“It's unbelievable,” Harper said. “I love those kinds of atmospheres. Having a great fan base like that, coming in and playing the Red Sox.”
For the sellout crowd of 37,309, it was the kind of game they’ll tell stories about in years to come even though the Sox lost. It was the baseball version of seeing a young Bruce Springsteen at Harvard Square Theater in 1974.
“Two very impressive players,” said Red Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who hit his 200th career home run in the eighth inning.
Strasburg's 13 punchouts were the most by an opponent at Fenway since Mike Mussina of the Yankees fanned 13 in his near perfect game on Sept. 2, 2001.
“He’s not just a thrower; he’s a pitcher. He had pitches he could throw behind in the count,” Bobby Valentine said. “His changeup was a real devastating pitch and his fastball was alive all night long. He’s special.”
That said, the Sox had the bases loaded with one out in the sixth inning down, 7-2. Strasburg wasn't quite on the ropes but it was close.
“Told myself that I have to make them beat me,” he said. “Just know that you have a five-run lead, keep trying to pitch to contact.”
Jarrod Saltalamacchia fouled off two two-strike pitches before Strasburg struck him out with a curveball. Kevin Youkilis was next and he worked the count full before Strasburg struck him out looking at a low fastball.
Youkilis complained about the call to umpire Doug Eddings and was ejected for the fourth time in his career.
It was the final pitch for Strasburg, whose 119 pitches were his career high. He threw 75 strikes.
“Youk gave him a heck of an at-bat. He gets called out and the inning’s over. But I think that inning should have continued,” Valentine said. “Who knows, we might have tacked on three more, four more earned runs on [Strasburg]. That pitch was not a strike.”
The Sox had a ton of great at-bats against Strasburg considering all the strikeouts. They battled him harder than the score would indicate.
If you were at Fenway, bet you felt the buzz in the crowd. Fun night to watch a game.
A few notes:
• Marlon Byrd was called into Valentine’s office after the game and told he would be designated for assignment to make room for Daisuke Matsuzaka on the roster. Byrd hit .270 in 34 games after being obtained by the Cubs on April 21.
• Ryan Kalish was 2 for 6 with two doubles in his latest injury rehab game for Pawtucket.
• Gonzalez was 2 for 5 and had a home run stolen from him by Xavier Nady.
• Daniel Nava struck out three times against Strasburg despite seeing 18 pitches. He then singled and doubled.
• Will Middlebrooks singled in a run in his lone at-bat and made a nifty play in the field in the ninth inning. He's pretty tough to leave on the bench.
That's enough for now. Thanks to everybody for reading today and how about our intern, Alex? He did a fantastic job on the updates.