Strasburg gets the nod in opener with Marlins

It's not a matter of if Stephen Strasburg's season is going to be cut short, it's now a matter of when.

The Washington Nationals' ace, though, will be on the hill on Tuesday when his club opens a brief two-game series with the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park.

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 toward the end of last season to make five starts.

He has been healthy so far in 2012, but based on what the team did with Jordan Zimmermann in a similar situation last season, the belief is that the Nationals will limit Strasburg to around 160 innings. Although, there has never been an official announcement, general manager Mike Rizzo has said he will shut him down when he thinks he's had enough.

"It's funny. Nobody talks to me personally about it," Strasburg said of the supposed team-mandated innings limit. "I can either scour the Internet, watch all the stuff being said on TV or I can just keep pitching."

Through 25 starts -- eight more than he made over his first two seasons -- the right-hander is 15-5 with a 2.85 ERA in 145 1/3 innings of work.

Strasburg showed no signs of slowing down in his last trip to the hill last Tuesday against Atlanta, as he gave up a run and four hits in six innings.

Strasburg tossed six scoreless innings to beat Miami the last time he faced it and has dominated the Marlins over the course of his career. In fact he has not allowed a run to them since Sept. 17 of last season - a stretch spanning five starts that lasted six innings apiece.

Washington could have used Strasburg this past weekend when they were swept in a three-game set by the Philadelphia Phillies. The Nationals have now lost four consecutive games and have seen their lead in the National League East over the Braves dwindled to five games.

The Marlins, meanwhile, have been one of the bigger disappointments in the league this season and are 20 games back of the Nationals in the division. Miami, though, avoided a sweep on Sunday, as it ended a four-game losing streak by beating the Los Angeles Dodgers, 6-2.

On Tuesday, the Marlins will turn to righty Ricky Nolasco, who is 9-12 with a 5.07 ERA. Nolasco did not get a decision last Tuesday in Arizona, but was not good, as he allowed five runs and six hits in five innings of a 6-5 win.

He is just 1-6 with a 6.70 ERA in eight starts since the All-Star break.

Nolasco has faced the Nationals 18 times (16 starts) and is 9-5 with a 4.26 ERA. In two outings against Washington this season, the right-hander is 0-2 with a 6.35 ERA.

Washington is 7-6 this season versus the Marlins.