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Washington Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg talks taking a step back to get two steps forward...

Stephen Strasburg made one mistake early, then settled in and dominated the Padres in his return to the Nationals’ rotation.

Washington Nationals v San Diego Padres Photo by Kent Horner/Getty Images

Stephen Strasburg was (1-1) in four outings in July, with the Washington Nationals 3-1 in his starts before he landed on the 10-Day DL with a right elbow nerve impingement back on July 23rd.

In those four starts last month, the Nats’ 29-year-old right-hander had a 1.89 ERA, nine walks, 19 Ks and a .203/.304/.275 line against in 19 innings pitched.

Strasburg made one rehab start at High-A Potomac after throwing a few bullpens and a simulated game, giving up three hits, a walk, and one earned run over five innings in a P-Nats uniform.

Dusty Baker talked on Friday night about what he expected from the right-hander in his return to the Nationals’ rotation.

“Certainly not going to just press him to where he usually is,” Baker said.

“He’ll be on a performance count and see how he looks, and hopefully he doesn’t have any long innings, and hopefully he can take us relatively deep into the game, without using too many pitches because we still have a game [Sunday] and so this will be back-to-back that we would have had to use our bullpen.”

Strasburg struck out 15 batters when he faced the Padres in the nation’s capital back in May, giving up just three hits and a walk over seven scoreless in Nationals Park.

Tonight in Petco Park, Strasburg was dialing up 97 mph heaters with regularity in the first, but he gave up a two-out single to right by Jose Pirela, and a two-run home run by Yangervis Solarte, who hit a 96 mph 1-2 fastball out to right for a 2-0 lead.

Screencap via Brooksbaseball.net

Strasburg retired ten straight after the home run, striking out five of the ten and completing four innings on 54 pitches.

His streak of retired batters ended on a dribbler toward first by Cory Spangeberg in the Padres’ fifth, when Strasburg hesitated to pick it up and allowed the runner to reach as Ryan Zimmerman tried to make the play, but with three straight Ks, the Nats’ righty stranded Spangenberg, and was up to 13 of 14 set down, eight Ks overall, and 73 pitches after five.

Manuel Margot took the first walk of the game from Strasburg in the first at bat of the sixth, but three outs later Strasburg was through his final inning of work on the night.

Stephen Strasburg’s Line: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 8 Ks, 1 HR, 91 P, 61 S, 4/2 GO/FO.

Strasburg left the game with the Nationals down, 2-1, and the Padres went on to a 3-1 win.

The offense didn’t come through, but Strasburg put together an impressive outing in his return to the Nats’ rotation.

“He threw the ball well,” Baker said after the loss. “You wouldn’t even know he had been out. Just made that one mistake in the first inning, got the ball over the plate a little bit, for the home run, but other than that he threw the ball great today.”

“I think it was just getting the rust off a little bit, and obviously, two-strikes got to put [Solarte] away,” Strasburg told reporters, “got to make a better pitch than that, it was way too good, but other than that curveball was good, changeup was really good, so you just got to bottle it up and trust the process.”

Baker said he thought Strasburg looked well-rested and strong throughout his time on the mound against the Padres.

“I think this time off helped him and hopefully it will help him down the stretch and beyond. He did look fresh. He had good tempo. He had real good command, and like I said that one ball was supposed to be up and in and it got back out over the plate and that was really the difference in the ballgame.”

Strasburg agreed that he was fresh coming off the DL stint.

“You don’t really want to take time off,” he said, “it’s just sometimes you’ve just got to make a good decision and maybe take a step back to get two steps forward.”

He collected 15 swinging strikes on the night, nine with his changeup, sat 95-97 with is two-seamer, 97-97 with his four-seamer, and mixed in the curveball as well, with two of 24 put in play, neither of them for hits, and 15 for strikes not put in play.

“Everything was working for him,” Baker added. “Hate to lose a game like that, because he threw the ball so well.”

“Felt strong,” Strasburg said, summing up his outing. “The velocity was still there. So, probably be back 100% normal start the next time.”