Strasburg tries to win a fifth consecutive interleague start Sunday as the visiting Nationals conclude a three-game set against the Cleveland Indians .
Strasburg (3-5, 2.54 ERA) had gone 2-0 with a 1.17 ERA over a three-start stretch before exiting his last one after two innings due to a strained muscle in his back May 31. The right-hander was placed on the disabled list six days later but is scheduled to come off when first eligible Sunday.
"(The back) feels good. Threw some good pitches, spotted the fastball, do what I need to do and get a move on, throw a bullpen and hopefully be ready to go," he told MLB's official website after throwing a simulated game Tuesday. "I feel the strength has really stayed there, even though I missed a couple starts."
Strasburg was later cleared to return following Thursday's bullpen session at Coors Field.
"He's never satisfied. He didn't have the pinpoint control that he expects out there," manager Davey Johnson said of Strasburg, who isn't expected to be on a strict pitch limit. "I think he attributes it more to the light air. Steve's always a perfectionist."
Strasburg won all four of his interleague starts last year, improving to 5-1 with a 2.13 ERA over seven career meetings against AL opponents. He's allowed one or two earned runs in each of those outings while striking out 66 in 42 1-3 innings.
Strasburg's only appearance versus Cleveland (33-34) came in his second career start June 13, 2010. He overcame a career-worst five walks to allow one run and two hits while striking out eight over 5 1-3 innings in a 9-4 road victory.
After a 2-1 walkoff loss in Friday's series opener, the Nationals (34-33) bounced back in a big way with Saturday's 7-6 win, their fifth in seven games. Washington hit a season high-tying five homers, none bigger than the first of rookie Anthony Rendon 's career, a go-ahead shot in the ninth inning.
"I guess it's not a bad one to get on the board with," said Rendon, who finished 3 for 5 with two runs scored. "I don't even know how to explain it."
"That shouldn't happen to us but it did and it cost us the game," Swisher said. "It was a little miscommunication. It was something we handled already."
Cleveland fell to 5-24 when committing at least two errors since the start of last season, including 0-7 this year. Despite Saturday's loss, the Indians are 17-7 over their last 24 home games.
Cleveland now turns to Corey Kluber (4-4, 4.08), who's gone 2-2 with a 3.09 ERA and 37 strikeouts in his last six starts spanning 35 innings. The right-hander turned in one of his best performances Tuesday, allowing one run and six hits over a career-high eight innings during a 5-2 win at Texas.
"He's getting better right in front of our eyes," manager Terry Francona said. "For him to go out there and kind of shoulder that responsibility, was, (we're) really proud of him."
Mired in an 0-for-18 slump, Denard Span is the only Nationals player with any experience against Kluber, going 2 for 6 with two doubles.
|June 03, 2013||Danny Espinosa||15-Day DL||Broken bone in right wrist|
|June 01, 2013||Stephen Strasburg||15-Day DL||Strained right latissimus dorsi|
|May 31, 2013||Stephen Strasburg||Day-to-Day||Strained right lat|
|May 27, 2013||Bryce Harper||15-Day DL||Left knee bursitis|
|May 26, 2013||Bryce Harper||Day-to-Day||Left game - Sore left knee|
|May 24, 2013||Danny Espinosa||Day-to-Day||Broken bone in right wrist|
|June 04, 2013||Asdrubal Cabrera||15-Day DL||Right quadriceps strain|
|June 03, 2013||Zach McAllister||15-Day DL||Sprained right middle finger|
|June 03, 2013||Asdrubal Cabrera||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained right quad|
|May 30, 2013||Ryan Raburn||Day-to-Day||Left game - lower right leg cramp|
|May 27, 2013||Chris Perez||15-Day DL||Right shoulder soreness|
|May 26, 2013||Chris Perez||Day-to-Day||Left game - Right shoulder discomfort|
CLEVELAND (AP) -- Pretty much everything about Stephen Strasburg 's return from the disabled list went well except the result.
Washington's ace right-hander allowed one run and one hit in five innings, but the Nationals' offense did nothing to support him in Sunday's 2-0 loss to the Cleveland Indians .
"I felt really good and definitely could have gone for a few more innings, but they didn't want me to," he said. "It was good to be out there after two weeks."
Strasburg (3-6) was activated before the game and made his first start since May 31 when he strained a muscle in his back. He showed flashes of the brilliance the Nationals have become accustomed to seeing by retiring eight in a row at one point and striking out four. Strasburg also showed some of the effects from the layoff by walking four and piling up 82 pitches.
"He was a little bit rusty and didn't have his command, but I thought he settled in pretty well," Washington manager Davey Johnson said. "He had a maximum of 80."
The only hit Strasburg allowed was costly. Carlos Santana 's RBI single with one out in the fourth gave Cleveland starter Corey Kluber the only run he needed. Kluber (5-4) pitched eight shutout innings and escaped three big jams to win for the first time in 11 career starts at Progressive Field.
Kluber gave up seven hits, struck out eight and didn't walk a batter. He wiggled out of trouble in the seventh after the Nationals loaded the bases with no outs.
Strasburg had gone 2-0 with a 1.17 ERA over a three-start stretch (three earned runs in 23 innings) before exiting his last appearance after two innings against Atlanta. He was placed on the disabled list six days later but was cleared to return following Thursday's bullpen session in Colorado.
"I tried to pound the strike zone as much as I could, but it was a little bit hit or miss, which is to be expected," Strasburg said.
Strasburg walked leadoff hitter Michael Bourn in the first before Mike Aviles hit into a double play. Jason Kipnis drew the second walk of the inning but Santana popped up. That began a stretch in which Strasburg retired eight straight.
"Once I got through the first inning, it started to click," he said. "I got into some trouble when that happened, but it was a good feeling."
Kipnis drew a one-out walk in the fourth, stole second and went to third when catcher Jhonatan Solano 's throw bounced into center field. Santana's single up the middle put the Indians ahead.
Kipnis' sacrifice fly in the eighth scored Cleveland's other run.
Vinnie Pestano pitched the ninth for his first save of the season.
Indians first baseman Nick Swisher , in a 6-for-55 skid, didn't play because of a sore left shoulder.
Kluber also escaped jams in the fourth and sixth, which were both set up by errors.
"I take it pitch by pitch," Kluber said. "I'm not thinking too far ahead. I'm not thinking if I can get a double play here or a strikeout there. Those things happen as a result of making good pitches."
The Nationals went for 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position, a frustrating day.
"We had a bunch of runners on third with less than two outs, but we just didn't score," Johnson said. "We had the right guys up."
Adam LaRoche struck out with men on first and third and no one out in the fourth. He also bounced into a double play with two on to end the sixth.
"I don't like it when we beat ourselves," LaRoche said. "We should have had an easy four runs on the board with the opportunities we had. It seems like we get one or two chances every game where we don't put it in play or hit it to the wrong spot. I wish we had a solid answer for why it keeps happening."
Anthony Rendon led off the fourth with a single, then third baseman John McDonald fielded Ryan Zimmerman 's grounder but threw wide into center field. Kluber regrouped with runners at the corners and struck out LaRoche, Jayson Werth and Ian Desmond .
Denard Span reached on an infield hit and took second on a throwing error by Kipnis at second base in the sixth. Rendon's single moved Span to third but Zimmerman struck out and LaRoche hit into a double play.
Werth started the seventh with a bloop double to right. Desmond was hit by a pitch before pinch-hitter Steve Lombardozzi popped up a bunt attempt. Kluber tried to make a diving catch but the ball fell in about halfway between home plate and the mound, loading the bases.
First baseman Mark Reynolds grabbed Solano's line drive and beat Lombardozzi to the bag for a double play. The inning ended when Roger Bernadina grounded out.
NOTES: Indians RHP Chris Perez (right shoulder strain) made his first rehab appearance for Class A Lake County, pitching one scoreless inning against Great Lakes. The Indians' closer started the game, allowing two hits while striking out one. ... The Nationals optioned LHP Xavier Cedeno to Triple-A Syracuse to make room for Strasburg on the 25-man roster. ... Washington wraps up its nine-game road trip with a three-game series in Philadelphia beginning Monday. RHP Dan Haren (4-8) faces LHP John Lannan (0-1), who former Nationals pitcher, in the opener. ... The Indians continue their nine-game homestand Monday against Kansas City. RHP Carlos Carrasco (0-2) takes on RHP James Shields (2-6) in the opener of the three-game set.