Strasburg mania returns to Nationals Park vs. Dodgers

The usually-low attendance at Nationals Park should be a repaired right elbow.

The hard-throwing Strasburg underwent Tommy John surgery at the end of last season and needed more than a year to recover. He now gets his long-awaited nod versus the Los Angeles Dodgers in the second test of a four-game series.

Before having elbow reconstruction, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 draft went 5-3 with a 2.91 earned run average in 12 starts last year. He last pitched on Aug. 21, 2010 in an 8-1 win over Philadelphia and allowed one run in 4 1/3 innings in the no-decision. Strasburg made six rehab appearances to get back to the big league level, compiling a 1-1 mark and a 3.54 ERA, and is expected to pitch five or six innings Tuesday.

The righty is slated to make four starts -- all at home -- and may also be on a pitch limit for the 2012 campaign as a precaution.

"The bottom line is to go out there, get your innings in, build up the arm strength, go into the offseason healthy," Strasburg said on the Nationals' website. "I'm not going to put any expectations on myself. I'm not going to win a Cy Young in four starts. I'm just going to try and help this team win some ballgames."

Catcher Wilson Ramos is expected to be behind the plate for Washington, which has won two of three games and handed the Dodgers a 7-2 loss in Monday's series opener. The Nationals set the tone early with a four-run first inning thanks to solo homers from Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth. Mike Morse hit a two- run blast in the frame and went deep twice on the afternoon. Washington entered Monday's series opener having lost 10 of 12 contests.

Morse owns nine homers and 30 RBI since the All-Star break. John Lannan was the beneficiary of the run support and recorded the win with 5 1/3 innings of one-run ball and four strikeouts.

Los Angeles will try to get back in gear this evening and entered baseball's Labor Day extravaganza with 11 wins in its last 13 games. However, the Dodgers were subdued by a rough first inning and starter Hiroki Kuroda was dealt the loss for giving up five runs and eight hits, including four home runs, in six innings of work. Kuroda had won four straight starts.

Matt Kemp and Justin Sellers were each credited with an RBI for the Dodgers, who are 3-2 on an 11-game road trip.

"We never really got anything going," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said.

Dodgers starter Ted Lilly hopes to win his third straight appearance when he gets the nod among all the hoopla surrounding Strasburg. Lilly last pitched in Wednesday's 4-2 win over San Diego and gave up two runs in 5 2/3 innings of work, improving to 9-13 with a 4.39 ERA in 28 starts.

The veteran left-hander has given up just three or more runs only once in his previous seven starts, but sports a lowly 2-6 record in 13 road outings this season. Lilly has made nine career starts against the Nationals and is 4-3 with a 3.29 ERA in that stretch. He did not record a decision in a 7-6 win over the Nats back on July 23 at Dodger Stadium.

The Dodgers took two of three matchups from Washington from July 22-24 and have won four of the previous six meetings between the teams.