WASHINGTON -- The thought going in was that there was no way Stephen Strasburg could match the hype that surrounded his Major League debut when he took the mound on Tuesday. Then he went out and pretty much exceeded it.

"That was the best thing in the history of Major League Baseball, in my opinion," said slightly overreacting 21-year-old Nationals fan Kurt Adams, who was still trying to wrap his head around what he saw. "I've seen [Strasburg] in Harrisburg, I've seen him in Syracuse and I've seen him here. It blew my mind. Blew my mind. ... I'm speechless."

Many felt the same way after what Strasburg did on this magical night in front of a sellout crowd of 40,315 at Nationals Park, where the Nats topped the Pirates, 5-2.

Stephen Strasburg

The 21-year-old phenom gave up just two runs -- on a 1-0 changeup to Delwyn Young that resulted in a two-run homer in the top of the fourth, Strasburg's only real mistake of the night -- while scattering just four hits, walking none and striking out 14 on 94 pitches (65 strikes).

"We've always had high expectations for him," 18-year-old Bryan Pollard said after the game, "but he exceeded them."

The 14 strikeouts set a team record, and according to the Elias Sports Bureau, his total was one shy of the Major League record for a debut. Strasburg also matched a Nats record by recording seven consecutive strikeouts to end his outing. And on two occasions, he hit 100 mph with his fastball.

"It was impressive," said 46-year-old Nats fan David C.F. Ray. "It was very, very, very impressive. I've seen a lot of pitchers -- seen a lot of Major League debuts -- but Stephen was impressive. I have to give it to him."

Fans lined up for tickets as early as 5:30 a.m. ET on Tuesday, making lines that stretched out more than a full city block a couple of hours prior to game time, and all throughout, they cheered exuberantly after every Strasburg out, bringing a buzz to Nationals Park that hasn't existed since the stadium first opened on March 30, 2008.

Then, Strasburg -- whose rookie card recently sold for more than $16,000 -- gave fans even more to look forward to.

"You want to run through a brick wall," said 28-year-old Ryan Shanahan, from Woodbridge, Va. "There's just so much hype, so much momentum going into it all. You feel it in yourself just as the player does. So much fun. A lot of fun. The most fun I've ever had at Nationals Park, by far."

Since the Nationals moved here from Montreal in 2005, there hasn't been a more exciting time to be a baseball fan in Washington, D.C. Thanks to a stellar performance from Strasburg that was one pitch away from utter brilliance, the excitement can continue.

"We can't expect to have this many people out here until we earn it," Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said. "But with what the Lerner family and [general manager] Mike [Rizzo] and [founding partner] Stan [Kasten] have done to make these kind of acquisitions -- Strasburg and [Drew] Storen and the Draft that is taking place still, players that we're getting here -- the commitment that's made is starting to show some results. It's a nice product for fans to come out and see. We can't ask them to come out until we earn it, as I said, and this is the type of night that you earn some of them to come back."