Mitchell Parker, Stephen Strasburg, and Jordan Zimmermann all have notched an elusive Curly W in a debut

The scouting report on Mitchell Parker was that he lacked pinpoint control on his fastball, and walked too many batters. So what did Parker do in his MLB debut against an offense featuring Mookie Betts, Shohei Ohtani, and Freddie Freeman? He walked zero batters. In fact he had two strikeouts on Betts and one on Ohtani of his four K’s. A debut you can only dream about came true.

In a game of inches — literally — on a throw from Lane Thomas to third base that the runner beat by two inches — turned out the difference between two earned runs over 5.0 innings instead of one run. Still great, and Parker is the first Washington Nationals’ pitcher since Stephen Strasburg on June 8, 2010 to win his MLB debut. Parker joins Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann as the best known of the five Nats pitchers to achieve that feat that also included Collin Balester and Luis Atilano.

Speaking of Nats’ named Luis, it was Luis Garcia Jr. who brought his glove and bat as a difference maker in this game with three fine fielding plays, and a three-run dinger — the ultimate difference in the 6-4 thriller win for the Nats.

On short notice, Parker’s mom and dad, fiancée Hayleigh, his brother and his brother’s fiancée, agent, and friends were all able fly to Los Angeles to make it to Dodger Stadium on this Jackie Robinson Day. The MASN cameras showed several images of Parker’s mom, Wendy, and all of her emotions. Even Parker’s youth travel coach traveled in from New Mexico and was seated to the right of Wendy Parker. The group occupied the middle of two rows, and were among many Nats fans in attendance as there is always a good showing by Nats fans traveling to games in Chavez Ravine. Several people that met Parker at different points in his career made the trek to L.A. to see this game. At one point, you could hear cheers for the Nats mixed with some booing from the Dodgers fans as the Nats took the lead.

“It’s the verification of a lifetime journey. [It’s] justification that he belongs here — that it’s not a fluke.”

— Parker’s mother said to

A lifetime journey is correct. There aren’t many MLB players coming out of New Mexico, and Parker is the first from Manzano High School in Albuquerque. He worked his way through travel ball, and long trips for showcases. The lefty was drafted three times, and his advisor, Craig Rose, encouraged him to go to college at San Jacinto College in Houston, Texas where he was drafted by Tampa and stayed in school, and drafted the third time the following year by the Nats’ in the COVID 2020 season as their fifth round pick. The Nats were the reigning World Series champs, and Rose got him the deal he signed with the Nats. Parker is the 23,162nd person in the world to play in a Major League game. That’s almost half of the size of the crowd (42,677) that was at this game.

The odds were stacked so deep against Parker and the Nats who were facing the Dodgers’ best pitcher, Tyler Glasnow, that Vegas cleaned up as the money rolled in for the Dodgers. It was called the “Lock of the Night” to bet the Dodgers giving up 1.5 runs. Parker certainly changed everything as he was composed and nasty. He plus’d and minus’d his curveball with great meticulousness that it was hard to believe this was his debut, given the poise we saw that was reminiscent of Zimmermann and Strasburg. The lefty gave up one run in each of his first two innings, and then threw three scoreless innings to exit at 81-pitches thrown, with a 6-2 lead, a 3.60 ERA in the books, and the pitcher of record.

“The kid has a very low heartbeat. I’ve known that for a while. Nothing seems to faze him. … That’s a tough team to face, and he did really, really well.”

— manager Davey Martinez said

That low heartbeat that Martinez referenced was a quality seen in both Zimmerman and Strasburg. While Zimmermann was often referred to as a bulldog on the mound, and Strasburg as the focused assassin — you could say that Parker is like a surgeon.

When we first saw Parker years ago in Low-A, the lefty finished low on his delivery, almost like Josiah Gray, with the arm-side deep knee bend. The current mechanics looked good. His repertoire was like Gio Gonzalez‘s fastball and curveball combo, and Parker added the splitter. A little work with Sean Doolittle in the pitching lab, expect a few tweaks to enhance what we saw. You had to come away from this debut impressed.

The chart above tells part of the story. The splitter needs some work. The fastball topped out at 94.6 mph, and it is his primary pitch thrown 54 percent of the time. While the fastball missed its location a few times, the Nats defense was very good behind him, and Riley Adams called a great game as his battery-mate.

What happens next is that you would expect Parker to start this weekend against the Astros and take a rotation spot and prove he belongs. This is exactly what Jake Irvin did last year. You get a chance — you prove yourself — you have a chance to stay. Baseball is a cruel business sometimes as Trey Lipscomb can tell you. He made his debut in the second game of the season when Nick Senzel broke a bone in his thumb. As soon as Senzel returned, Lipscomb had not done enough to stay up. One great game doesn’t make for a career — but string enough together, and you never know, as Irvin proved last year.

“Imagining it — and actually living through it are two very different things. It was a special experience.”

— Parker said after the game

The Nats have two more games remaining in this long road trip. Parker will be able to sit in the first row of the dugout and see how an MLB pitcher charts for his next game which Irvin will be doing tonight. Parker makes it three lefties in the Nats’ starting rotation with Patrick Corbin, and MacKenzie Gore. He will certainly get to learn a lot because baseball is about adjusting. If Parker gets the opportunity to face the Astros this weekend, they will have some scouting on him. Let’s see what the 24-year-old can learn before his next start. The beginnings of a promising future.

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