Caught Looking continues its recap of the most memorable moments and accomplishments from the 2010 season. Here are moments one through five.

5. Stras-a-palooza
In what ended up being one of the most hyped regular season games in recent memory, the Nationals and Pirates met up for a meaningless game on June 8th that just so happened to be the debut of pitching  phenom Stephen Strasburg. You knew it was a big game when the MLB Network pulled Bob Costas out of the woodwork for it. Thankfully, their broadcast was blacked out in Pittsburgh so I didn’t have to struggle with Costas’ one liners and overly dramatic statements. This was also the game that featured the first and so far only live blog for Caught Looking! As for the game, Strasburg lived up to the hype as he baffled Pirate hitters all night, striking out 14 with no walks in seven innings of work for his first victory. Though the Pirates did score runs off of him thanks to a two-run home run by Delwyn Young. Strasburg would make 12 total starts and finish with a 5-3 record and 2.91 ERA before being shut down in late August with a torn right UCL that will sideline him for the 2011 season.

4. Perfect games and no-hitters gone wild
The “Year of the Pitcher” was no more evident than in the frequency of great pitching performances that continued throughout the entire season. It started with Ubaldo Jimenez‘s dominant performance by no-hitting the Braves on April 17. There are so many after his no-hitter that I need to list them all…

  • Oakland A’s starter Dallas Braden fires the 17th perfect game in MLB history on May 9 against the Rays to celebrate Mother’s Day, which made it even special since Braden lost his mother to breast cancer years ago. The whole Braden/A-Rod storyline that preceded this performance was just another headline after Braden made himself a household name.
  • Roy Halladay didn’t wait very long for the next perfect game as he mowed down the Marlins on May 29 for the 18th perfecto in history. Halladay’s perfect game was just the beginning of his remarkable first year in the NL.
  • Edwin Jackson no-hit the Rays on June 25. Yes, the Rays were no-hit again, and was I the only one who honestly didn’t remember Jackson throwing a no-hitter in 2010? It just got lost in all the others. Maybe it was because while he gave up no hits, he also walked a ridiculous eight batters while throwing 149 pitches. Whoa. Jackson was eventually traded a month later from Arizona to the White Sox.
  • The Rays must have been tired of being on the losing end of no-hitters, so Matt Garza tossed his own against the Tigers on July 26. Garza made history for the Rays as the first no-hitter in franchise history, and it also marked the most no-hitters in one year since 1990.

There was one other no-hitter that I failed to mention because it was memorable enough to hold its own spot next on the list.

3. Roy Halladay‘s no-hitter in his first postseason game
There was a lot of pregame debate about how the Doc would handle his first playoff game since he had never gone to the postseason with the Blue Jays. That was all put to rest with an exclamation point as Halladay stifled the Reds in Game 1 of the NLDS with the second no-hitter in postseason history, second only to Don Larsen‘s perfect game in the ’56 World Series. Doc struck out eight batters on 104 pitches and only permitted one walk in the entire game or it could have been his second perfect game of 2010. His performance pretty much ended the Reds season even though they weren’t knocked out until a couple of days later when the Phillies finished the three-game sweep. Even though the Phillies did not get back to the WS, Halladay’s first season in the NL was legendary as he easily went on to capture the Cy Young award with a 21-10 record and 2.44 ERA.

2. Armando’s perfect game that wasn’t perfect
Of all the no-hitters and perfect games thrown in 2010, of course the most memorable game would be Armando Galarraga‘s near perfect game that was derailed due to a horrendous call by ump Jim Joyce. Never has Jim Joyce’s name been known by some many fans—mostly irate ones. Four days after Halladay’s perfect game, Galarraga took the mound for the Tigers against the Indians at home and was one out away from another perfect game. Galarraga got Jason Donald to ground to first baseman Miguel Cabrera, who tossed the ball to Galarraga coming to cover first base in what appeared to be a close play. Galarraga’s hands went in the air when he tagged first base, but Joyce called Donald safe for an infield single, ruining the perfect game and no-hitter. Galarraga’s hand immediately went to his head in utter disbelief. As well as the shocked crowd at Comerica Park. Replays quickly showed that Donald was indeed out, and the play wasn’t nearly as close as first thought. Joyce admitted to blowing the call later after seeing the replay and the two made up the next game when they met at home plate to turn in the starting lineups. It was a cruel twist of fate, one that Galarraga showed an immense amount of class for such a young player while some of his teammates did not. In my opinion, this perfect game that never was is definitely one of the most memorable moments of 2010.

1. San Francisco Giants are champs
Despite a stable of great pitching, people continued to not give the Giants a real chance as a contender for the championship. They proved they were way more than just a surprise team by defeating the Phillies and disposing of the Texas Rangers in five games to earn their first title since 1954 when they were still in New York. Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Brian Wilson and a lineup mostly full of castoffs surprised the baseball world with dominant pitching throughout the entire playoffs. Edgar Renteria (series MVP) continues to find himself on the big stage in the Fall Classic with the game-winning three-run homer in Game 5 to help give the Giants the championship.

There you have it. The top 10 memorable moments from the 2010 season. Are there any other moments Caught Looking missed?

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I swear I will stop talking about Stephen Strasburg sooner or later, but he seems to be in the news daily. When he’s not starting every fifth day, the media loves to ramble on and on about how he should be an All-Star! This is getting ridiculous.

The rookie pitcher has made six starts in his career. Yes, he’s looked dominant at times and human more recently, but he’s pitched in only six games. Stop with the All-Star complaining, baseball media. Charlie Manuel may have lost his mind taking Omar Infante to Anaheim, but he made the right call leaving Strasburg at home. He’s 2-2 with a 2.45 ERA with a 5.30 K/BB ratio (53-10), but it doesn’t matter if he was 5-0 with five complete games.

There’s a thing in the major leagues called respect and earning credibility by going about your work on the daily grind over the course of a season and a career. Strasburg is six starts removed from starting in the minors. His All-Star game was his first start, which was one of the most hyped regular season games of all-time.

Let the summer classic showcase the players that have earned the spot and been producing since Opening Day (and Infante). I’m sure Strasburg will only have about 10 other All-Star games to take part in, so the media needs to put a cork on whining about MLB missing a huge opportunity to feature him. They already did that. He’ll most likely be there next year, so let’s just move on.

End of game: Capps sets down his former team 1-2-3 in the ninth to preserve the win for the rookie. 5-2 Nats victory. Well the Pirates certainly went with the script tonight as they struck out 16 times (14 by Strasburg). If you can believe it, Strasburg was as advertised and lived up to all the hype tonight. I can just imagine what people are predicting for him in Washington. He was pretty super tonight even throwing strong heat (97-99MPH) in the seventh inning. I think the most impressive thing for him tonight was when he got to a couple of full count and 3-1 count at-bats, he had the confidence to fire away and still blow it by the hitters and ended up walking none. Incredible. Let’s see how he does when he’s not facing the Pirates lineup though. At least the Bucs didn’t completely embarrass themselves and get shut out as they were able to hold a lead into the sixth inning. That’s all I got. Live blog is over.

End eighth: The Nats load the bases with no outs, but only get one run on a GIDP. 5-2 Nats and here comes Capps to try to close it out. Ugh.

Mid eighth: Wait a minute…Dunn just hit an opposite field single?? This truly is a night for firsts. This may not even be a save opportunity for Capps once the bottom of the eighth is finished.

9:06PM: I just realized unless the Pirates do something here in the eighth to generate some offense, they are going to get to face their former closer Matt Capps. Oh irony!

End seventh: About 90 percent of the country just realized Strasburg is out of the game and turned the channel once they figured out this was suddenly just a game between the Nationals and Pirates and nothing special going on anymore.

8:55PM: It’s official. Strasburg’s night is done. His line looks like this: 7.0IP, 4 hits, 2 runs, zero walks and 14 strikeouts and most likely a victory. No walks and 14 K’s—pretty incredible to live up to the hype for this game. Keep in mind this is the Pirates offense he faced tonight. They’re tied for the worst hitting team in the majors with a .237 average coming into tonight. Still though, it was an amazing performance.

Mid seventh: Wow. This is getting ridiculous. Strasburg strikes out the side again for his seventh consecutive strikeout. He’s one away from the rookie record, but I would have to believe his night is done considering he’s near 100 pitches. The Pirates hitters will be glad to see the bullpen come rolling in here.

End sixth: Baseball Reference is already on top of Strasburg’s 11 strikeouts. The most strikeouts in a debut was 15 strikeouts. Not bad, kid. But Strasburg’s night isn’t done yet as the Nationals bring him out to start the seventh.

8:40PM: Well that’s the end of the line for Karstens following the back-to-back home run by Willingham. Evan Meek coming on in relief. 4-2 Nats.

8:35PM: See what I mean? My intuition could just feel that coming on. Adam Dunn hammers a Karstens offering into the second deck in right field. 3-2 Nats.

Mid sixth: Strasburg’s fastball-changeup combo will be a dangerous tandem for National League hitters. Walker and Milledge had no chance in the top of the sixth. Something tells me the Pirates aren’t scoring any more runs, and something also tells me they probably won’t hold this lead very much longer. That’s just my pessimistic Pirates mentality.

End fifth: The Pirates broadcast made an interesting statement earlier about this being one of the most hyped regular season games in more than 25 years. Boy that seems a bit of a stretch. One-game playoff games count as regular season games so I would say those, maybe opening day when baseball returned after the strike? Just throwing a couple out here.

Mid fifth: The bottom of the Pirates order is awful with backup catcher Jason Jaramillo in there. Strasburg has eight strikeouts through 5. Yawn, he’s also losing which is more important. I find it funny how there’s so much importance and attention placed on just this game, but his next start will just be another game with much less attention. As if we are supposed to see something great just because it’s his first start in the majors. He’ll pitch better games later this season.

End fourth: Who knew there could be excitement in this game even when Strasburg isn’t pitching? Milledge mows down Josh Willingham at home plate for a double play and the third out to keep the score at 2-1. I’m kind of surprised they sent Willingham at all since the ball wasn’t too deep. Bottom of the order up for the Bucs…this should be bad.

Mid fourth: Delwyn Young was quoted before the game as saying jokingly: “Never seen people excited to see the Pirates in town.” Young just hit a two-out, two-run homer off Strasburg. 2-1 Pirates. Strasburg has been a little wild, working behind in a bunch of counts and Young made him pay with a big hit. Nationals Park is suddenly quiet.

7:55PM: UH OH! Walker doesn’t give a damn about this Strasburg hoopla as he and Milledge hit back-to-back singles.

7:52PM: ESPN has to be pretty pissed they weren’t able to televise this game and lost out to MLB Network. What are they countering with? Only about the 11th Sportscenter of the day.

End third: The crowd would have went bonkers if Strasburg’s first at-bat was a hit, but thankfully Ronny Cedeno rebounded to make a nice play to nail him at first. Still 1-0 Nats. Will the Pirates get to Strasburg in the fourth?

Mid third: One time through the lineup and I’m not feeling it for the battling Bucs. They are striking out two times per inning and Strasburg’s adrenaline seems to be charged up. Hey, now he gets to hit too!

7:31PM: So Strasburg is 21 years old and his battery mate Pudge Rodriguez is what…about 65? Pudge signed with the Rangers on July 27, 1988…Strasburg was just seven days old. Ridiculous.

Mid second: Well at least the Bucs won’t be no-hit tonight. Four strikeouts through two innings. Nationals fans must already think he’s a bust since he hasn’t struck out every batter he faced. They seriously expect him to win every single time out. Might be just a bit high on the realistic expectation bar.

7:20PM: Pretty impressive at-bat against Garrett Jones falling behind 3-0 before striking him out on the next three pitches. Good Lord do people in Washington know baseball? Every pitch Strasburg throws as a ball is heavily booed…even if it’s way outside.

Who had Andy LaRoche in your office “first hit off Strasburg” pool? You just won!

End first: The Pirates announcers were just building up the other starter in Jeff Karstens and how well he’s pitched this year and about two seconds later, Ryan Zimmerman homers to center. Nice one, guys. Hopefully that won’t be all they need in this one.

Mid first: A 1-2-3 inning for the rookie. McCutchen had the best hit off him, but lined it to short. Walker grounded out and former National Lastings Milledge struck out to end the inning. Speaking of which, does Washington want Milledge back by any chance??

7:08PM: 75 percent of the country just said “who in the hell is Neil Walker?” out loud. And Walker promptly grounds to first for the second out.

7:04PM: Well MLB Network just blacked out for me since I’m in the Pittsburgh viewing area, so it looks like I’m stuck with the Pirates announcers again. I was actually looking forward to hearing what some of the national guys said about the Pirates, but that was until I saw Bob Costas as the play-by-play man tonight. I guess if you really want to over hype something, Costas is a good way to do it. I’m surprised he was able to pull away from his busy schedule of preparing for the next Olympic Games to call this game. First pitch coming in seconds.

This was definitely a last-minute decision on my part, but I figured tonight’s game was big enough to make my live blog debut. I wouldn’t have done the live blog if it was just Stephen Strasburg making his ML debut, but since he’s facing my hometown Pirates I figured what the hell. I mean it’s not everyday that the Pittsburgh Pirates are on national freaking television…actually I couldn’t tell you the last time they were on the national stage. Such is the life of a Pirates fan. Anyway, I’ll be updating probably every half inning or more when it calls for it. Five minutes till first pitch…here we go.

Last night the Nationals selected their future catcher, slugger and phenom in the form of Bryce Harper with the first overall pick in the amateur draft. Tonight they make news on the field as the 2009 first overall pick Stephen Strasburg makes his major league debut against the Pirates.

This game will be seriously over hyped like only ESPN and MLB Network know how to do, but I’m sure they are loving the Nats opponent. They would have loved to see his face division foe, the New York Mets or another rookie phenom Jason Heyward and the Braves. Hell, they would have preferred the Reds or Padres at this point. But nope, he’ll face the hapless Pirates. Seriously, you know this is a momentous game when they have no choice but to put the Pirates in the national spotlight.

So how will the kid do tonight after posting a 7-2 record with a 1.30 ERA in 11 minor league starts? I do not think he’s going to no-hit the Pirates or anything like that. If Strasburg was a no talent ass clown who the Pirates love to make look like Warren Spahn then I would be worried about tonight (see Ramon Ortiz on May 1, Homer Bailey on May 12, Dave Bush on April 20, Brett Myers on April 25 or pretty much every time they’ve faced Bronson Arroyo). But for reasons that I can’t even begin to explain, the Pirates tend to hit better than average pitchers in recent years. They defeated Roy Halladay this year and scored three runs off of Tim Lincecum on Sunday.

Plus no matter how Strasburg and the Nationals try to downplay this as “just another game,” it certainly isn’t. There has to be some degree of nervousness that will set in for the rookie at some point on this national stage probably early on. He’s not in Harrisburg or Syracuse anymore. He’ll be on a strict pitch count, but I think the Pirates will get a couple runs off of him through five or six innings, possibly a quality start but check your no-hitter/perfect game predictions at the door—that won’t happen tonight.

As if Stephen Strasburg’s highly anticipated major league debut this Tuesday wasn’t already reaching a ridiculous level, the city of Strasburg, Virginia went beyond it all.

The small town of 6,200 people want to seriously change its town name to “Stephen Strasburg” for one week next year. You can’t make this stuff up. Keep in mind he hasn’t even thrown a single pitch in the majors yet. Courtesy of Big League Stew, here are the four things the city wants to make happen by next year:

1. On June 8, 2010 the town of Strasburg, Va. plans to honor Stephen with a “Pride of Strasburg Recognition” Award.

2. The Strasburg town council will also draft a resolution to rename the town “Stephen Strasburg, Virginia” …

3. Upon which the newly named town would welcome Stephen into town on the back of a fire truck and honor him with a welcoming parade and police escort.

4. We also invite Mr. Strasburg to throw out the first pitch to our new traveling little league team which would henceforth be known as the “Stephen” Strasburgs.

Insanity. We have reached the level of insanity. Of course the kid would also be making his debut against my Pirates. I honestly have no idea what to expect from them in this game considering they will get shut down to sub-5.00 ERA pitchers yet beat Roy Halladay. Tuesday night should be interesting—I’m sure ESPN won’t be up everyone’s ass that night.

Let’s continue the minor league update and take a look at what’s going on down under in the minors.

Oh my goodness! That Strasburg kid can actually struggle in a game!
Stephen Strasburg took his first loss in Triple-A on Saturday, allowing three runs and a home run (oh no!) to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees. Yeah, get used to losing to the Yankees, kid. They just have a knack for ruining things even in the minors.

Posey hits the bay
The Buster Posey story has been buzzing this weekend in the bay area as the Giants number one prospect was called up this weekend and so far is 6-for-10 in his first two games. This all comes after he was hitting .349/.442/.552 in 47 games at Triple-A Fresno, but one quote stuck out to me. In the last issue of Baseball America, Giants GM Brian Sabean apparently didn’t think too much of Posey’s performance to date…

“Triple-A baseball isn’t very good. I’m going to tell you that right now. Especially from a pitching standpoint. Anybody who can pitch is in the big leagues.”

Well doesn’t that just give Posey and all of the guys at Triple-A trying to make a career for themselves a nice confidence boost? Sabean is not a stranger to bizarre moves (just take a look at some of his former trades), but holy crap what a vote of confidence in your guys. Basically, he’s saying everyone else down there in Triple-A is a load of garbage that can’t hit some long-time minor leaguer. Didn’t the Giants have Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum pitching in Triple-A for a decent amount of time before coming to the Majors? Sabean never ceases to amaze me.

Can the Rays pitching staff get better?
As if the Rays didn’t already have a freaking legit rotation, another one of their big prospect arms continues to roll in Triple-A. Jeremy Hellickson improved to 8-2 with a 2.49 ERA on Sunday for Triple-A Durham. His eight wins is tied for the most in all of the minor leagues. Not bad. Now where to put him? Unless there’s an injury to the Rays staff, Hellickson will probably be called up soon and thrown into the bullpen because those guys (Matt Garza, James Shields, Jeff Niemann, David Price, Wade Davis) are all tearing it up.

Prospect Hot Sheet
Baseball America takes a look at some of the top prospects that are hot or struggling this past week throughout the minors. Hellickson is currently 2 on the list and Rays prospect Tim Beckham seems to be turning it around after a horrible start to the season. It’s seriously amazing how the Rays still have super prospects coming up through the farm system. They really have a chance to be crazy good for years to come.

Announces retirement and then ends with a victory
A pretty cool and bittersweet story about Indians farm hand Mike Gosling announcing his retirement prior to the Columbus Clippers game on May 17 and then winning the game. Gosling decided to give up the dream and focus on other priorities like raising a family. It’s worth a read if you have time.

I had intended to start this feature earlier this season, but better late than never as I start what hopefully becomes a continued feature on Caught Looking as I dive into the latest news around the minor leagues. What’s going on down under in the minors? What players might we see soon on your favorite ballclub? All of that and more will be featured in these minors posts.

.340/.481/.854, 15HR, 33 RBI
That’s the current stat line for the Marlins top prospect at Double-A. Get ready for the name Mike Stanton to blast into Florida’s lineup very soon. Stanton is tearing the cover off the ball at Double-A Jacksonville, and there have already been rumors that his first ever call up is not far away. His 15 home runs currently lead the entire minors in the category, which includes one blast that was measured more than 500 feet. I don’t see this guy seeing Triple-A at all before jumping straight to the majors. I’m already kicking myself for not grabbing Stanton in my keeper league draft in March.

6IP, 1H, 0ER, 0R 1BB, 6K
Super prospect Stephen Strasburg’s Triple-A debut went okay. OK, it was more than okay, his performance being more like superb. He allowed one hit over six shutout innings to mow down Braves Triple-A affiliate Gwinnett after making just five starts at Double-A Harrisburg. It would be shocking if this kid wasn’t in the majors by the second week of June. The way he’s pitching to begin his professional career, there’s no one that could fault the Nationals for calling him up at the end of this month.

Cha, Cha, Cha, Chia!
One of the best things about the minor leagues it the wacky promotions teams put together while trying to one up each other. This week has a lot going on including a groundskeeper Chia pet and a rubber ducky giveaway!

Rehabs!
Another great thing about the minors is the numerous rehab assignments you see around the league as major league players try to get healthy before heading back up. Well, do you remember Jeff Francis? The former ace of the Colorado Rockies before he missed all of 2009 due to injury? Well he’s finally on his way back. Francis tossed seven shutout innings for Double-A Tulsa in his second rehab start and appears to be on track to return to Colorado shortly. He could make one more start in Double-A or Triple-A as I’m sure the Rockies are cautious to rush him back.

Why’s he keep calling me Meat?
I’ll end on a great story of the Durham Bulls returning to their historic park on Monday to host the Toledo Mud Hens for one game in Durham Athletic Park. This was the team and ballpark made famous in the 1988 classic film Bull Durham. The Bulls currently play in a newer park across town, but for one game fans were able to go back in town in the ol’ ballpark with throwback jerseys from the movie as well. You don’t get to see this too often with stadiums being torn down so much these days, so it’s refreshing to hear about this event. The stadium is currently used as a training facility for minor league baseball for groundskeepers and umpires. Glad to see it’s still there and useful.