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Washington Nationals Look To Stephen Strasburg In Rubber Match With The Houston Astros.

As he worked his way back from Tommy John surgery, Stephen Strasburg, according to Nats' Skipper Davey Johnson, was, "... chomping at the bit, every step of the way he's been chomping at the bit, wanting to do more, wanting to do more. I think it was a great regime he was on and I'm sure he's glad this day is over. But you could tell that he hasn't changed a lick, I mean he's very calm, cool and collected." 

Finally having Strasburg back on the mound in majors, Johnson told reporters Tuesday night after the right-hander's 5.0 inning, 56-pitch, two hit, four K outing, "It's big," Johnson said, "Obviously he's projected to be our no.1, and he showed there why. It's pretty obvious that he was a dominant pitcher, first time out in a year...If you didn't like what you saw tonight, you [don't ]like great pitchers." Mechanically, Johnson said, Strasburg is, "... very regimented about what he's doing. He was quick to the plate, hard to steal off of. I think he was about 1.1, 1.2 to the plate with runners on. [He'd] miss a couple, come back, make a great pitch right there, it was fun watching." 

As for his second major league start today, which is Strasburg's eighth rehab start overall this season, Johnson said this past Tuesday that after seeing what Strasburg could do with 56 pitches over 5.0 innings, "The way he's throwing, I think 70-80 pitches is probably wtihin his range easy."

The Nats' Skipper told reporters Saturday afternoon that the right-hander wouldn't have a set pitch count or inning limit this time out, but he said Tuesday night, "I'm just going to be real careful knowing [Jordan] Zimmermann, his second and third outings last September, [he] threw a lot of pitches in just 3.0 innings, so I'm going to look at [Strasburg] real close." Zimmermann made 10 minor league starts (to Strasburg's six) before returning to the majors on the same schedule Strasburg's followed this year. Zimmermann's second start of 2010 was arguably his best.

After giving up seven hits and five runs in 4.0 IP over which he threw 70 pitches in his first outing, Jordan ZImmemrann threw a one hit shutout over six innings on the road against the Marlins in start two, striking out nine batters with 86 pitches. The next three starts, Zimmermann threw 79, 80 and 76 pitches, respectively, in one 4.0 inning and two 3.0 inning outings in which he surrendered a combined 17 hits, eight walks and 13 runs. Zimmermann finished the season with a 5.0 inning, 83-pitch outing and a 6.0 inning 82-pitch start, allowing three hits and just one earned run in each. 

Strasburg, who had surgery later in the year last season than Zimmerman did in '09, will make just three, maybe four, more starts this season. After today, the Nats' '09 no.1 overall pick is schedule to pitch next Saturday (the 17th) against Florida and Firday the 23rd against Atlanta with another start against the Marlins in game 161 of 2011 also a possibility on the 28th. Today it's the Astros, and the rubber match with Houston. The Washington Nationals need their no.1 starter to win a series.