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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

NCAA Football Rankings Week 2-Stephen Strasburg is BACK - 2011 NFL Broadcasting Guide


NCAA Football Rankings Week 2 September 6th, 2011
USA Today Poll
RK TEAM RECORD PTS
1 Oklahoma (43) 1-0 1454
2 Alabama (9) 1-0 1412
3 LSU (7) 1-0 1366
4 Florida State 1-0 1198
5 Boise State 1-0 1197
6 Stanford 1-0 1180
7 Oklahoma State 1-0 1038
8 Texas A&M 1-0 997
9 Wisconsin 1-0 988
10 Nebraska 1-0 910
11 Virginia Tech 1-0 863
12 South Carolina 1-0 827
13 Arkansas 1-0 786
14 Oregon 0-1 752
15 Ohio State 1-0 686
16 Michigan State 1-0 584
17 Mississippi State 1-0 497
18 Florida 1-0 375
19 Missouri 1-0 309
20 Penn State 1-0 247
21 Texas 1-0 231
22 Auburn 1-0 197
23 Arizona State 1-0 189
24 West Virginia 1-0 185
25 TCU 0-1 140


AP Top 25
RK TEAM RECORD PTS
1 Oklahoma (32) 1-0 1448
2 LSU (17) 1-0 1415
3 Alabama (9) 1-0 1409
4 Boise State (2) 1-0 1310
5 Florida State 1-0 1196
6 Stanford 1-0 1154
7 Texas A&M 1-0 1033
8 Wisconsin 1-0 1031
9 Oklahoma State 1-0 981
10 Nebraska 1-0 947
11 Virginia Tech 1-0 906
12 South Carolina 1-0 843
13 Oregon 0-1 828
14 Arkansas 1-0 752
15 Ohio State 1-0 606
16 Mississippi State 1-0 594
17 Michigan State 1-0 530
18 Florida 1-0 382
19 West Virginia 1-0 357
20 Baylor 1-0 284
21 Missouri 1-0 242
22 South Florida 1-0 221
23 Penn State 1-0 147
24 Texas 1-0 135
25 TCU 0-1 130






2011 NFL Broadcasting Guide
CBS
PREGAME

The NFL Today -- James Brown (host), Bill Cowher (analyst), Boomer Esiason (analyst), Dan Marino (analyst), Shannon Sharpe (analyst), Charley Casserly (information), and Lesley Visser (reporter).

BROADCAST TEAMS

1. Jim Nantz (play-by-play) and Phil Simms (analyst).

2. Greg Gumbel (play-by-play) and Dan Dierdorf (analyst).

3. Ian Eagle (play-by-play) and Dan Fouts (analyst).

4. Marv Albert (play-by-play) and Rich Gannon (analyst).

5. Kevin Harlan (play-by-play) and Solomon Wilcotts(analyst).

6. Bill Macatee (play-by-play) and Steve Tasker (analyst).

7. Spero Dedes (play-by-play) and Steve Beuerlein (analyst).

8. Don Criqui (play-by-play) and Randy Cross (analyst).

WHAT'S NEW:
• CBS generally eschews major talent changes, so this was an active offseason. The headline addition was Albert, the longtime lead NBA voice for Turner who worked with CBS during the NCAA tournament. He'll team with Gannon, whom CBS management is high on.

"He's a legendary broadcaster with great NFL heritage, and when I got a chance to work with Marv for the NCAAs -- and the first time I worked with him was when I was at NBC in 1980 -- I was reminded what an incredible professional he is," said McManus of Albert. "If you have a chance to add someone like that to your team, you would be sorry not to."

• Equally notable was the departure of Gus Johnson, who moved to Fox, as SI.com first reported when CBS opted to part ways with him. Johnson's former partner, Tasker, is now paired with Macatee. Dedes, the 32-year-old radio voice of the Knicks, gets a new partner in Beuerlein. Criqui and Cross will also form a new team. Reporter Sam Ryan left CBS for the MLB Network.

WHAT'S OLD
• We've said this before: The hiring of Brown in 2005 to stabilize the pregame was arguably the best talent move by CBS Sports in the past 10 years. Nantz-Simms and Gumbel-Dierdorf form the top teams and provide continuity on the big games. The partnership of Eagle and Fouts was a really good listen last season. That's become an excellent team.

WHAT CAN BE IMPROVED
• Every year we offer The NFL Today the same admonition: Tone down the chuckle parade. Given the levels of laughter emanating from the cast, you'd think we were watching The Comedy Central Roast of Charlie Sheen. We're not. The pregame crew rarely offers tough questions when in-house guests come in, and while nobody expects this to be 60 Minutes, it also should not be Kathie Lee & Hoda.

• Few pregame analysts deliver less than Sharpe for me, though his NFL Hall of Fame speech was stirring and perhaps that portends a better year. McManus said game audio needs to be improved this year. "Audio is a big one and not having the microphones on the players last year was missed by a lot of our viewers, maybe subconsciously without even knowing it," he said. "We are also adding more high speed cameras, which I think will add for viewers."

BEST GAMES (all games ET)
Steelers at Ravens (Sept. 11, 1 p.m.), Chargers at Patriots (Sept. 18, 4:15 p.m.) Jets at Patriots (Oct. 9, 4:15 p.m.), Chargers at Jets (Oct. 23, 1 p.m.), Steelers at Cardinals (Oct. 23, 4:05 p.m.), Patriots at Steelers (Oct, 30, 4:15 p.m.) Chargers at Bears (Nov. 20, 4:15 p.m.), Dolphins at Cowboys (Nov. 24, 4:15 p.m.),Patriots at Eagles (Nov. 27, 4:15 p.m.), Chiefs at Bears (Dec. 4, 1 p.m.), Patriots at Redskins (Dec. 11 1 p.m.), Raiders at Packers (Dec. 11, 1 p.m.), Chiefs at Jets (Dec. 11, 1 p.m.), Colts at Ravens (Dec. 11, 1 p.m.), Jets at Eagles (Dec. 18, 4:15 p.m.), Dolphins at Patriots (Dec. 24, 1 p.m.), Chargers at Lions (Dec. 24, 4:05 p.m.), Jets at Dolphins (Jan. 1. 2012, 1 p.m.).


FOX
PREGAME

FOX NFL Sunday -- Curt Menefee (host), Terry Bradshaw (co-host), Howie Long (analyst), Jimmy Johnson (analyst), Michael Strahan (analyst), Jay Glazer (reporter), Mike Pereira (rules analyst) and Frank Caliendo (comedian), Pam Oliver (reporter).

BROADCAST TEAMS

1. Joe Buck (play-by-play), Troy Aikman (analyst) and Pam Oliver (sideline).

2. Kenny Albert (play-by-play), Daryl Johnston (analyst), Tony Siragusa (sideline).

3. Thom Brennaman (play-by-play), Brian Billick (analyst) and Laura Okmin (sideline).

4. Dick Stockton (play-by-play) and John Lynch (analyst).

5. Chris Myers (play by play) and Tim Ryan (analyst).

6. Ron Pitts (play-by-play), Jim Mora (analyst).

7. Sam Rosen (play-by-play), Chad Pennington (analyst).

8. Gus Johnson (play-by-play), Charles Davis (analyst) and Tim Brewster (analyst).

WHAT'S NEW
• There's a major behind-the-scenes change as Bill Richards takes over from Scott Ackerson as the executive producer of FOX NFL Sunday.

• Former Jets and Dolphins quarterback Pennington impressed in an audition with FOX and will do seven games this season as he rehabs his knee and shoulder and decides whether to continue his NFL career. His first game is the Panthers at Cardinals on Sept. 11.

• The popular Johnson, now FOX's lead college football announcer, will calls select NFL games. His first assignment comes Week 4 for the Redskins-Rams. Brennaman's team moves up a slot for the network, which is very high on Billick. Stockton used to work with Davis. His new analyst is Lynch. Rosen and Pennington did practice games this summer and have become a team. Rosen's former partner, Ryan, is now working with Myers.

• FOX will give its Transformersesque robot, Cleatus, more airtime -- including its own a Twitter account. Of course, this is the same network that once had a talking baseball named Scooter and we expect Cleatus will produce the same enthusiasm from the audience. In terms of a better idea, FOX will add a "Twitter Ticker" segment to the pregame show. "For a couple of segments, we will show some of the more interesting player tweets about the upcoming games," Richards said. There will also be a new segment titled "Double Coverage," where pregame show staffers will have 90 seconds to debate one hot topic per week.

• Former sideline reporter Charissa Thompson moved to ESPN to co-host the ESPN2 afternoon show, Numbers Don't Lie. Sideline reporter Nischelle Turner was not brought back.

WHAT'S OLD
• FOX's pregame strength is the continuity of Bradshaw, Long and Johnson, a group that has seemingly been together since Woodstock. Menefee has grown nicely into his role after Brown left for CBS after the 2005 season. The top two announcing teams remain the same, as does the team of Pitts and Mora.

• It's remarkable to think Buck, Aikman and Oliver have been together for 11 seasons. Buck's continued voice problems bear watching. He has been the subject of consistent vitriol on Twitter and remains a polarizing figure. From this corner, while he's not Michaels, he's a professional on the NFL.

• Dr. Z always loved Ryan and Pitts, but not so much Johnson.

WHAT CAN BE IMPROVED
• I'd use Pereira weekly rather than on a case-by-case basis. FOX Sports execs think Siragusa is funny but I've found few fans who share that view. Billick is developing into a solid analyst and I'd like to see him get higher-profile games.

• Escape from L.A (studios): Richards said he wanted the pregame show to have a better "live" feel this year. "I want to make it more obvious to the viewer that we have over 60 cameras at games across the country," he said.

BEST GAMES
Falcons at Bears (Sept. 11, 1 p.m.), Giants at Eagles(Sept. 25, 1 p.m.), Falcons at Bucs (Sept. 25, 4:15 p.m.), Lions at Cowboys (Oct. 2, 1 p.m.), Cowboys at Patriots, (Oct. 16, 4:15 p.m.), Saints at Bucs (Oct. 16, 4:15 p.m.), Bears vs. Bucs in London (Oct. 23, 1 p.m.), Bucs at Saints (Nov. 6, 1 p.m.), Falcons at Colts (Nov. 6, 1 p.m.), Giants at Patriots (Nov. 6, 4:15 p.m.), Packers at Chargers (Nov. 6, 4:15 p.m.), Cardinals at eagles (Nov. 13, 1 p.m.), Saints at Falcons (Nov. 13, 1 p.m.), Bucs at Packers (Nov. 20, 1:00 p.m.), Packers at Lions (Thanksgiving, 12:30 p.m.), Lions at Saints (Dec. 4, 1 p.m.), Falcons at Texans (Dec. 4, 1 p.m.), Packers at Giants (Dec. 4, 4:15 p.m.), Packers at Chiefs (Dec. 18, 1 p.m.), Giants at Jets (Dec. 24, 1 p.m.), Eagles at Cowboys (Dec. 24, 4:15 p.m.), Cowboys at Giants (Jan. 1, 2012, 1 p.m.), Bucs at Falcons (Jan. 1, 2012, 4:15 p.m.).




ESPN
PREGAME
Sunday NFL Countdown -- Chris Berman (host), Cris Carter (analyst), Mike Ditka (analyst) Tom Jackson (analyst), Keyshawn Johnson (analyst), Chris Mortensen (information/reporter), Bill Parcells (analyst) Adam Schefter (information/reporter), Josina Anderson (reporter), Bob Holtzman (reporter), Rachel Nichols (reporter), Sal Paolantonio (reporter), and Ed Werder (reporter).

MONDAY PREGAME
Monday Night Countdown -- Berman, Carter, Trent Dilfer (analyst), Ditka, Jackson, Johnson, Mortensen, Stuart Scott (host), Steve Young (analyst), Suzy Kolber (reporter), and Schefter.

MONDAY BROADCAST
Monday Night Football -- Mike Tirico (play-by-play), Ron Jaworski (analyst), Jon Gruden (analyst), Kolber (reporter).

WHAT'S NEW
• Parcells returns for his third stint with the network. He was previously an analyst in 2002 (Sunday NFL Countdown) and 2007 (Monday Night Countdown). He's interesting television, and it's always fun to watch his ESPN on-air colleagues kiss his butt at every turn. "Bill makes us better every time he's here," says Seth Markman, ESPN's senior coordinating producer for the NFL. "He'll be a major part of the Sunday show. He's got a unique perspective as someone who has coached successfully in this league for many years and then moved into the front office. In my time in the business, there is nobody that knows more football than him."

• Anderson will be stationed in Chicago, so if the Bears have a good year, ESPN will be in very good position in that market. Reporters Wendy Nix and Michael Smith have moved to other assignments. Matt Millen will now focus on college football.

• The long-tenured Michele Tafoya moved to NBC to join Sunday Night Football.

• Dilfer is going to get more airtime and that's an excellent thing for viewers. From this corner, he's an excellent, well-prepared analyst. "Trent Dilfer is a rising star in the business and I needed to clear a place for him to have a bigger role on our NFL coverage," Markman said. "I thought putting him and Steve Young together -- they have a history together and are two quarterbacks that are really opinionated and smart but see the world very differently -- would create some memorable television at the site each week. I think after the game on SportsCenter, these guys will be off-the-chart debating decisions, quarterback play and everything that happens in games. I think adding Trent is the biggest deal regarding losing Matt or Michele."

• Look for Paolantonio to get plenty of airtime with the Eagles if a major storyline develops this season.

• Worth noting here is ESPN also added Hugh Douglas, Eric Mangini, Jerry Rice and Damien Woody as analysts this fall. They'll appear across the ESPN platforms on programs such as NFL Live, SportsCenter and ESPN's Audibles.

WHAT'S OLD
• The Monday Night booth has established continuity with its current team. While I think Gruden is ridiculously over-the-top with his effusiveness for NFL players and coaches, I enjoy that guy's enthusiasm for football and I think he sees the game very well for an analyst. This column is no fan of Berman and he's long been a de facto PR staffer for the NFL. But I'll always give him his due as a highlight reader. Few have done it better in history.

WHAT CAN BE IMPROVED
• ESPN's access is a double-edged sword: It provides a lot of opinions and tonnage, and much of that is good. But with so many platforms, we're also inundated with plenty of nonsense peddling from analysts who often engage in a can-you-top-this game. "The last few years, the one area I wanted to focus on was getting a little bit back on the field," said Markman. "Some of it was the last few years there were so many off-the-field stories that it took us in a lot of different directions. When I looked at the shows, I found that we could do a better job of getting people ready for their games. If that means being a little more Xs and Os this year, then I think we can do that."

• That Kolber doesn't tweet from the sidelines is a serious missed opportunity for Monday Night Football. It makes zero sense and ESPN looks behind the curve here with its competitors.

• More Tom Jackson is always supported here. Too often he gets lost amid Carter and Johnson's over-the-top declarations.

BEST GAMES
Patriots at Dolphins (Sept. 12, 7 p.m.), Colts at Bucs(Oct. 3, 8:30 p.m.), Chargers at Chiefs (Oct. 31, 8:30 p.m.), Bears at Eagles (Nov. 7, 8:30 p.m.), Vikings at Packers (Nov. 21, 8:30 p.m.), Chiefs at Patriots (Nov. 21, 8:30 p.m.), Giants at Saints (Nov. 28, 8:30 p.m.), Falcons at Saints (Dec. 26, 8:30 p.m.)



NBC
PREGAME

Football Night In America -- Bob Costas (host), Dan Patrick (co-host), Tony Dungy (analyst), Rodney Harrison (analyst), Mike Florio (information), Peter King (reporter and SI.com football writer).

BROADCAST
Sunday Night Football -- Al Michaels (play-by-play), Cris Collinsworth (analyst) and Michele Tafoya (sideline reporter).

WHAT'S NEW
• The defense will get some love. NBC will do an in-game feature titled "Crossing the Line," which will offer a series of plays from the defense's view. Fred Gaudelli, the producer of Sunday Night Football, said one of the things he and Collinsworth have wanted to do the last couple of years was to show a series from the defense's point of view. "Each play in a football game is covered from the offense's point of view, so we wanted to to take a series, for both teams ideally, and do it from the other point of view," Gaudelli said. "Not that we will show the angle of the play from a different angle, but instead of focusing on the offense, we'll really try to do it from the defense. I think they've been neglected by television."

• Look for more chatter between Florio and King, especially Florio. Much of NBC's web strategy is driven by Florio's Pro Football Talk, so the television arm is going to do everything possible to feature him on all things NFL. Florio and King are also joining forces for a show on VERSUS this fall. "The thing we can do better is take more advantage of Peter King and Mike Florio," said NBC Sports executive producer Sam Flood. "We've created a new set for these guys so they can get more information onto the show in a better fashion. It's a big improvement from where we were"

Worth noting is a couple of viewers wrote in during the preseason to say that they worried Florio and King would become a modern-day version of Sean Salisbury and John Clayton. Viewers immediately see through the faux-fight nonsense. I don't expect NBC to go down this route.

• The network replaced Kremer with Tafoya on the sideline. How will she impact the broadcast? "I don't know that it affects anything," Gaudelli said. "The fact that Al and [director] Drew [Esocoff] and I have great familiarity with Michele makes it an easy addition. Look, Michele hosts a four-hour radio show every day in Minnesota, so the conversationalist in her is as good with anyone doing her job. She knows how to talk to an audience because she does it every day for four hours a day. I don't know if an audience will pick up on that but she is very at ease when speaking to the audience."

• NBC will broadcast the Super Bowl this season so you'll see plenty of promotion toward's the year's concluding moment.

• Gaudelli said as soon as the first half ends, the NBC scoreboard will flash to which team is getting football in the second half. It's something he regretted not doing when NBC broadcast the Super Bowl in 2009.

WHAT'S OLD
• After the Keystone Kops manner in which NBC Sports handled Keith Olbermann's departure before the 2010 season, the pregame show has developed a nice rhythm with Patrick, Dungy and Harrison. Michaels and Collinsworth enter their third year together in the booth as John Madden's retirement has long faded from view. Having Costas and Collinsworth interact at the game site provides value for viewers. Both are thoughtful and prepared.

• How can a pregame show draw traction with viewers competing against live games? "I've learned that we have to be smarter and be able to tell people why things have happened throughout the day," said Flood. "And the key to that is having the right people to be able to tell those stories."

WHAT CAN BE IMPROVED
• Dungy has proved more provocative than expected and should get even more airtime. Tafoya is smart and opinionated. I'd like to see her as part of the pregame show conversation with Costas and Collinsworth.

BEST GAMES
Saints at Packers (Sept. 8, 8:30 p.m.), Cowboys at Jets (Sept. 11, 8:20 p.m.), Eagles at Falcons (Sept. 18, 8:20 p.m.), Jets at Ravens (Oct. 2, 8:20 p.m.), Packers at Falcons (Oct. 9, 8:20 p.m.), Colts at Saints (Oct. 23, 8:20 p.m.), Cowboys at Eagles (Oct. 30, 8:20 p.m.), Ravens at Steelers (Nov. 6, 8:20 p.m.), Patriots at Jets (Nov. 13, 8:20 p.m.), Colts at Patriots (Dec. 4, 8:20 p.m.), Giants at Cowboys (Dec. 11, 8:20 p.m.), Bears at Packers (Dec. 25, 8:20 p.m.)



NFL NETWORK
PREGAME
NFL GameDay Morning --Rich Eisen (host), Steve Mariucci (analyst), Marshall Faulk (analyst), Michael Irvin (analyst), Warren Sapp (analyst), Kurt Warner (analyst), Mike Mayock (remote analyst), Michael Lombardi (front office view), Jason La Canfora (reporter), Albert Breer (reporter), Steve Cyphers (reporter), Stacey Dales (reporter), Randy Moss (reporter) and Steve Wyche (reporter).

MIDGAME
NFL GameDay Scoreboard -- Paul Burmeister (host), Jamie Dukes (analyst), Tom Waddle (analyst).

POSTGAME
NFL GameDay Highlights -- Eisen, Mariucci, Sanders.

NFL GameDay Final -- Fran Charles (host), Mariucci, Sanders, Irvin.

BROADCAST
Thursday Night Football -- Brad Nessler (play by play), Mayock (analyst), Alex Flanagan (sideline reporter).

Thursday Night Football pre/half/postgame show -- Eisen, Faulk, Irvin, Mariucci, Sanders, Warner, Sterling Sharpe (analyst), and Jay Glazer (analyst).

WHAT'S NEW
• Finally, our long national nightmare of Matt Millen and Joe Theismann has ended. The new team of Nessler and Mayock gives the network an opportunity for much needed consistency because that's been the major issue with this broadcast. NFLN's group of broadcasters on Thursday night had included Bryant Gumbel, Collinsworth, Dick Vermeil, Faulk and Sanders before the team of Bob Papa and Millen debuted in 2009. In a move as inspiring as it was unoriginal, Theismann was added last year.

• It's important to note that Papa is a quality broadcaster who got dealt a very bad hand last season. He deserves a national gig at a network and I hope he gets it. He'll continue to call New York Giant games locally. Cyphers, the ESPN vet, is a solid hire as a reporter. Mayock will provide info via remote for the GameDay morning show.

• The biggest studio change is the addition of Warner. "The addition of Kurt is a big deal for us," said Mark Quenzel, the NFL Network's senior vice president of programming and production. "I've been asked if that's too many people on the show and I don't think it is. We are on for four hours and we're the first ones on. Our goal is to specialize in subject matter that plays to our skill sets, and one of the things that plays to our strengths is we have the key positions covered. With Kurt we have the quarterback, we have the wide receiver, defensive player, running back and coach."

• Irvin joins an already crowded set on the pregame, halftime and postgame show on Thursday night. More Irvin is never good news for viewers.

• NFLN added NBC analyst Harrison and former NFL fullback Heath Evans to work on its programming during the week. "We fell in love with Heath during the lockout when we talked to him as a player," Quenzel said. "It may not be fair to put this on him but he brings so many interesting qualities. He speaks his mind. He is articulate. I like him a lot."

WHAT'S Old
• NFL Network executives remain smitten with Irvin and Sanders, so for those of you not enamored with ridiculous pronouncements (Irvin) or self-aggrandizing statements (Sanders), I'd suggest the mute button when you see the them on screen. Eisen continues to grow as a host, and he does a nice job of allowing his analysts to shine while offering viewers knowledge of the league. I've always respected Faulk as an analyst and he's often ahead of the curve on issues and players. Sapp and Mariucci both impress and annoy me depending on the day. The NFL reporters are solid. Sharpe is a grump. I'll say this about Jay Glazer: His acting is brilliant on Subway commercials.

• NFLN's "Word on the Street" segment during GameDay will return, featuring local reporters and announcers live from game sites

WHAT CAN BE IMPROVED
• The biggest need was addressed with the shelving of Millen and Theismann and the addition of Mayock. NFL Network execs think the crowded GameDay set will be an advantage; traditionally, that has not been the case for pregame shows.

BEST GAMES
Jets at Broncos (Nov. 17, 8:20 p.m.), Niners at Ravens (Nov. 24, 8:20 p.m.), Eagles at Seahawks (Dec. 1, 8:20 p.m.), Cowboys at Bucs (Dec. 17, 8:20 p.m.), Texans at Colts (Dec. 22, 8:20 p.m.).





Stephen Strasburg is BACK
WASHINGTON -- Stephen Strasburg's lost year appeared to evaporate from the moment he started his walk from the bullpen. The crowd again gave him a standing ovation, all the way to the dugout. Washington Nationals pitching coach Steve McCatty again joked he was the "Steve" the fans had come to see.
The radar gun again registered in the high 90s. The 90 mph changeup remained almost unhittable. The main man himself downplayed his accomplishments, as he always does, while his manager, teammates and opponents exhausted their supply of superlatives.
In his first major league start since undergoing Tommy John surgery, the 2011 edition of Strasburg was every bit as impressive as the 2010 version that wowed the baseball world. The 23-year-old right-hander allowed two hits over five shutout innings before the bullpen blew the lead in the Nationals' 7-3 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
"He was outstanding. He looked totally relaxed, totally in control," manager Davey Johnson said. "He had all his pitches working. He made it look easy. Real low pitch count. Looked strong at the end. ... It was just like he hadn't been out."
Last year's magical days of "Strasmus" came to an abrupt end when the 2009 No. 1 overall draft pick felt his elbow pop on Aug. 21 in Philadelphia, and his long road back began when he had the now-familiar, career-saving ligament replacement surgery last Sept. 3. He wound his way through six minor league rehab starts with four teams in four states over the last month, culminating with a return to the majors that was easily the most anticipated event of the season for a Nationals club trying to avoid a fourth consecutive last-place NL East finish.
Daylong rains from the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee threatened to postpone the game, but, when it came time to play, the weather put itself on hold for the pitcher wearing jersey No. 37 and those gotta-love-'em traditional high red knee-socks.
His workload carefully monitored, Strasburg threw 56 pitches, 40 for strikes. The fastball peaked at 99 mph. He struck out four, didn't walk a batter, and a string of 11 retired in a row ended when Juan Rivera was generously given a hit for a ground ball that went under shortstop Ian Desmond's glove.
"The game seemed it was in slow motion out there," Strasburg said. "From what it felt like in the debut last year, I felt I'd kind of been through it before, so I was definitely a lot more relaxed out there, really focusing on just trying to execute pitches and get guys out."
Strasburg emphasized again he is much stronger than before, having spent his year conditioning the rest of his body. He's expected to get three more starts this season, but he doesn't expect the full payoff to come until 2012.
"It's not like I was waiting 368 days for this time," he said. "I'm still on a mission here. I wanted to get stronger, mentally and physically, through this process. I had something that I wanted to work on every single day. I didn't waste a minute waiting for this time to come, because I knew it was going to come sooner or later."
Strasburg was set to get the win when he departed with a 3-0 lead, but Dodgers tied it in the sixth. Then even the weather gave up on the game, at least temporarily, as the rain returned in the seventh to force a 31-minute delay and empty the ballpark of all but a hardy few.
Those that remained saw Rod Barajas' two-run double in the eighth inning off Henry Rodriguez (3-3) put the Dodgers ahead for good, giving Kelly Jansen (2-1) the win.
Strasburg even scored his first career run, part of a three-run second inning. He reached by laying down a sacrifice that turned into a two-base throwing error. Strasburg wound up at second on the play, went to third on Desmond's single and came home on Jayson Werth's groundout.
Of course, there was no way Strasburg could match his major league debut, when he struck out 14 Pittsburgh Pirates on June 8, 2010. He finished 5-3 as a rookie, with a 2.91 ERA in 12 starts.
Only a few thousand fans were in the stands when Strasburg started tossing in the outfield at 6:44 p.m., and there were dozens -- instead of hundreds -- peering over the railing when he entered the bullpen to start his warmups. More filtered in as the game went along, but Nationals Park was never more than half-full despite the announced attendance of 29,092 -- well short of the expected sellout.
The game started five minutes late, and Strasburg's first pitch was a 96 mph fastball that was fouled away by Dee Gordon. On a 2-1 pitch -- clocking 97 mph -- Gordon punched the ball to left-center and legged out a double. He was left stranded when Strasburg retired the next three batters.
Strasburg started cruising in the second, striking out Andre Ethier with a 90 mph changeup and Aaron Miles with a 99 mph fastball. He worked fast -- just as he did as a rookie -- barely pausing between pitches and making everyone else look like slowpokes by comparison.
Sensing Strasburg's night was nearly done, the crowd was on its feet with two outs in the fifth. Strasburg rewarded them by getting Justin Sellers to foul out to third baseman Ryan Zimmerman on a 97 mph fastball. Strasburg then headed toward the dugout, where he was greeted on the top step with a handshake from Johnson.
"He's someone that the Nationals should probably trade to us if they knew what was best for us," Dodgers starter Ted Lily said with a laugh. "Maybe things will work for him over here."

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