Stephen Strasburg isn't worried about a looming innings limit that could end his season well before the playoffs.
As of now, the Washington Nationals' ace is still in the rotation and he'll take the ball on Tuesday night looking to stretch his club's lead over the second-place Atlanta Braves in the second of three straight games between the National League East rivals.
Strasburg's rookie season in 2010 was cut short in late August due to an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery and he returned towards the end of last season to make five starts.
He has been healthy so far in 2012, but Washington indicated before the start of the season that it would like to hold him to no more than 160 innings this season. Through 24 starts -- seven more than he made over his first two seasons -- the right-hander is 14-5 with a 2.91 earned run average in 139 1/3 innings of work.
Strasburg would like to pitch for the remainder of the season and hasn't heard anything yet about being shut down.
"I don't know what the decision is and everything, but we're not there yet," Strasburg told Washington's official website. "So that's what I keep telling myself. We still have to finish out the season. When we get to that point, we have to figure that out. For right now, I'm getting ready for my next start."
The 24-year-old has won three straight starts, going six innings in each while allowing a total of three runs and eight hits with 19 strikeouts. He has walked four batters in back-to-back outings, including Wednesday's win over the San Francisco Giants.
Strasburg will face the Braves for the fifth time this season and has yielded seven runs over 8 1/3 innings in two starts against them since a home win on June 2 in which he held Atlanta scoreless over seven innings.
Atlanta starter Paul Maholm hopes to keep rolling with his new club as he makes his fourth start since being acquired from the Chicago Cubs prior to the non-waiver trade deadline.
Maholm lost his debut with the Braves, but has only given up one run over 16 innings with 12 strikeouts in back-to-back wins. That includes a three-hit shutout of the New York Mets on Aug. 10 and seven solid innings versus the San Diego Padres five days later.
The 30-year-old lefty, who has lost only once in his past eight decisions, is 11-7 with a 3.39 ERA in 24 total outings this season, including 23 starts. He hasn't allowed more than three earned runs in an outing since June 23.
Maholm has struggled in nine career meetings with Washington, going 1-5 with a 5.56 ERA.
The Nationals took advantage of three infield hits in the 13th inning of Monday's opener to claim a 5-4 win and stretch their lead over the Braves to six games for first place in the division.
Ian Desmond opened the frame with a single, but was out at second on Danny Espinosa's ensuing fielder's choice to short. Kurt Suzuki then came up and smacked an infield single that Braves third baseman Chipper Jones couldn't handle cleanly, with Espinosa racing to third on the play.
Pinch-hitter Chad Tracy following with hard grounder to the right side that Atlanta second baseman Dan Uggla dived to stop. Espinosa raced home on contact and Uggla couldn't get the ball out of his glove cleanly to make a throw.
The win was Washington's fourth in five games and 15th in its past 19. It also improved to 9-4 versus Atlanta this season.
"They were looking to come in here and try to do some damage and walk away here with their heads high. Hopefully now they can't," Tracy said.
Though the Braves lost their third straight following wins in four in a row, manager Fredi Gonzalez was happy that his club battled the division leaders in a tight contest.
"I'm proud of the club. They came out and they battled for 13 innings," Gonzalez said. "I think that we've played some tough ballgames against a very good team and we know we can hang in there."
Jason Heyward homered and drove in three runs for the Braves, while Ian Desmond went deep for the Nats.