Stephen Strasburg mania in Cleveland lasted just 5 1/3 innings Sunday before the Washington Nationals rookie sensation gave way to the bullpen with one out and the bases loaded in the sixth inning.
Strasburg, who limmited the host Indians to a run (via a Travis Hafner solo home run in the second inning) on two hits, struck out eight.
But it wasn't so much the Indians batters that chased him from game early as it was a deepening groove in the front of the mound that ultimately psyched him out.
Strasburg's right plant foot kept digging in the same part of the mound, slowly but surely wearing a ditch into the front of rounded pile of earth. Twice play was halted and the grounds crew came out to try and patch the hole.
"(I was) slipping a bit where I was landing," said Strasburg, who thew 95 pitches, including eight that lit up the radar gun at 100 mph. "When I planted my front side, it gave a little bit."
By the fourth inning, Strasburg had become more focused on the deepening hole than the batter at the plate, uncharacteristically walking five batters in the short outing.
Still, he earned the win to improve to 2-0 in first two major league games, giving a glimpse of the dominating pitcher he can be when he's on - and the mound is to his liking.