Stephen Strasburg Shines In Comeback

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 06: Stephen Strasburg #37 of the Washington Nationals pitches against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Nationals Park on September 6, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

They said Stephen Strasburg wouldn't pitch for the Washington Nationals in 2011, because his right elbow was reconstructed in 2010.

Then they said Stephen Strasburg wouldn't pitch Tuesday night, because rains were supposed to blanket the DMV all evening long.

Strasburg has now pitched for the Nationals in 2011, and the rains held off long enough Tuesday night for Strasburg to start against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Slightly more than a year ago -- the 21st of August, to be precise -- Strasburg threw his last pitch in the majors before Tuesday night. Also slightly more than one year ago -- the 3rd of September, to be precise -- Dr. Lewis Yocum removed a ligament from Strasburg's left leg and transplanted said ligament into Strasburg's right elbow.

One year and three days later, Stephen Strasburg pitched five shutout innings against the Dodgers.

At 7:10 Eastern Time, Strasburg threw his first pitch in the majors since the 21st of August, slightly more than one year ago. His first pitch, to leadoff man Dee Gordon, was a 96-mile-an-hour fastball that Gordon fouled off. Which set the tone for the evening. Strasburg threw a lot of fastballs, most of them 96 or 97 miles an hour. And he pitched first-pitch strikes to 14 of the 17 Dodgers he faced.

In Strasburg's MLB debut last summer, he struck out 14 hitters, the third-highest total in history for a pitcher making his first start in the majors. Tuesday night, Strasburg didn't miss nearly as many bats. His four strikeouts:

  • James Loney in the second inning, on a 90-m.p.h. change-up in the dirt;
  • Aaron Miles in the second, on a 99-m.p.h. missile on his hands;
  • Matt Kemp in the fourth, on another change-up, down; and
  • Andre Ethier in the fourth, on a 94 fastball, up.

Giving up only two hits -- Gordon's leadoff double and Juan Rivera's single up the middle that probably should have been snagged by shortstop Ian Desmond -- and zero walks, Strasburg never seemed in less than complete control, and needed only 56 pitches (including 40 strikes) to get through his five innings.

Essentially, Strasburg looked exactly what he looked like before his elbow gave out: one of the best pitchers in the National League. In just his 13th major-league start.

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