The Washington Nationals get a key piece to their club back on Sunday, when Stephen Strasburg returns to the hill to start the finale of a three-game series with the Cleveland Indians.
Strasburg has not started since May 31, when a strained right lat muscle forced him out of his start against the Atlanta Braves after just two innings of work. The right-hander was eyeing a third straight winning decision after having dropped five in a row.
Strasburg, who was placed on the disabled list June 5, threw a simulated game on Tuesday and completed a successful bullpen session two days later. He was then cleared by Washington head trainer Lee Kuntz to start this game.
The 24-year-old is 3-5 on the year with a 2.54 earned run average through 12 starts, logging 73 strikeouts over 74 1/3 innings.
Strasburg has faced the Indians once before and picked up a victory as he held them to a run on two hits and five walks over 5 1/3 innings of a 9-4 decision on June 13, 2010 in Cleveland.
The Indians should have some confidence going against Strasburg given the way Corey Kluber pitched last time out. A duplicate performance today should take some pressure off of the offense.
The right-handed Kluber won for the first time since May 15 with Tuesday's 5-2 victory in Texas. He yielded just one run on six hits and three walks over a season-high eight innings versus the Rangers, snapping the Tribe's eight-game losing streak.
"He's getting better right in front of our eyes," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said of Kluber. "For him to go out there today and kind of shoulder that responsibility, we're really proud of him."
Kluber is 4-4 with a 4.08 ERA this season and will face the Nationals for the first time. The 27-year-old does so looking for his first home win of 2013, going 0-2 with a 4.20 ERA in four appearances (3 starts).
The Indians and Nationals have traded late-inning victories over the first two games of this set. After Cleveland won in walk-off fashion to claim Friday's opener, Washington scored twice over the final two innings to win last night's meeting 7-6.
Chad Tracy hit a game-tying homer in the eighth inning before Anthony Rendon delivered his first career home run in the top of the ninth. His two-out solo shot came after he nearly made the game's final out.
Cleveland's Vinnie Pestano got two quick outs to begin the frame and looked to have gotten Rendon to foul out to first base, but Nick Swisher could not come up with the ball. Given second life, Rendon posted his third hit of the game and fifth solo homer of the contest for the Nats.
"I don't even know how to explain it. It felt good, I guess." Rendon said. "I thought the ball was in play because I saw it drop. But I didn't know it went into the bullpen. I thought it was still on the field."
Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth and Ian Desmond all hit homers for the Nats, who have won five of seven.
Carlos Santana and Mark Reynolds clubbed back-to-back homers in the fourth for the Indians, who had won three straight following a season-high eight-game skid.
"We did a really good job of climbing back into that game," Francona said. "We just, we didn't finish it out."
Washington and Cleveland are wrapping their first series since the Indians took two of three matchups at home back in 2010.