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Washington Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg exits start vs Astros with leg cramps, but impresses in second start off the DL..

Stephen Strasburg tossed six scoreless innings against the Astros, and the Nationals won it in extras after they blew a lead late in Minute Maid Park...

MLB: Washington Nationals at Houston Astros Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Stephen Strasburg returned from close to a month on the Disabled List recovering from what was diagnosed as a “right elbow nerve impingement” with a solid start against San Diego’s Padres last weekend in Petco Park.

Strasburg went six innings, giving up four hits and two earned runs in what ended up a 2-1 loss.

Washington Nationals’ skipper Dusty Baker noted after the start that Strasburg looked sharp, and his velocity ticked up some, sitting 96-98 throughout his time on the hill.

“I think this time off helped him,” Baker said.

“Hopefully it will help him down the stretch and beyond. He did look fresh. He had good tempo. He had real good command.”

“You don’t really want to take time off,” Strasburg 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.”

Strasburg threw 91 pitches in his six innings of work, and he said after getting the first start back out of the way that he expected he would be back at full strength when his next turn in the rotation came around.

“Felt strong. The velocity was still there. So, probably be back 100% normal start the next time.”

Baker said this afternoon, before the finale of the Nationals’ three-game set with the Houston Astros in Minute Maid Park, that he needed Strasburg to provide some length.

“We’re hoping that he can go full pitch count,” Baker explained, “because our bullpen needs a little rest too, and he needs rest, but now is not the time of the year you’re going to get rest, so we’re hoping that he’s sharp, especially doesn’t have any high pitch count innings, and we’ll just go on how he performs.”

Strasburg started strong with a 12-pitch, 1-2-3 first, getting back-to-back backwards ꓘs.

Alex Bregman K’d looking with a 3-2 fastball up high, outside, then Jose Altuve went down looking at a knee-buckling, 2-2 curve.

Strasburg collected two more Ks in a 12-pitch second, both swinging in another 1-2-3 inning.

Carlos Beltran bumped his pitch count up a bit with a 12-pitch at bat to start the third, but Strasburg got a weak groundout from the Astros’ slugger, and completed another scoreless frame on 24 pitches to finish three scoreless on 48 overall.

An inning-ending 6-4-3 got Strasburg through a six-pitch fourth that started with back-to-back singles for the Astros, and he took the mound with a 2-0 lead in the fifth after the Nationals took back-to-back walks from Houston starter Dallas Keuchel in the top of the inning and brought both runners around.

Strasburg’s 10-pitch, 1-2-3 fifth left him at 64 pitches total, and he got two quick outs in the sixth before coming off the mound awkwardly and hopping briefly after a pitch like he had a cramp in his left leg.

Dusty Baker, Mike Maddux and the Nats’ trainer came out for a visit after he gave up a two-out double by Alex Bregman, but he stayed in the game and got the third out on a well-struck liner to left from Jose Altuve that was lined right at Howie Kendrick.

• Stephen Strasburg’s Line: 6.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 Ks, 90 P, 60 S, 5/1 GO/FO.

“Stras threw a heck of a game,” Baker told reporters after what ended up an all-too-interesting extra-innings win in which the Nationals blew the lead Strasburg left the game with only to rally in the eleventh for the win.

“He came out because he was having cramps,” Baker explained. It’s a problem that the right-hander has dealt with before, but Baker said he wasn’t sure there to prevent it in future starts.

“He’s in the hands of the trainers and the Lord,” Baker said, “cause you can’t tell when it’s going to rear its ugly head, and anybody that’s ever had a cramp, had cramps, I mean you can’t even move, and you could tell when he went back up third that time that he couldn’t go, and he was dealing. We didn’t want to take him out, but you gotta do that, before he hurts his arm or something trying to throw a little different to save his leg.”