Game 121 lineups: Nats at Padres

SAN DIEGO - When Stephen Strasburg departed his July 23 start in Arizona after two innings with a nerve impingement in his elbow and subsequently was placed on the disabled list, the Nationals said they expected the right-hander to miss only one start before returning to the mound in what was deemed a precautionary move. Tonight, 27 days removed from that start, Strasburg finally takes the mound again.

stephen-strasburg-red-throwing-2017.jpgStrasburg himself has suggested throughout the last four weeks that he could’ve returned sooner, that the Nationals were merely showing an extra abundance of caution with a pitcher whose availability for October is far more important than his availability for August. And there’s nothing wrong with that suggestion; there was no reason for the Nats to rush to bring Strasburg back.

In fact, the Nationals did kind of rush Strasburg back one year ago under similar circumstances. After three weeks on the DL with a sore elbow, he returned Sept. 7 against the Braves, departed in pain after his 42nd pitch and didn’t return again in 2016. This time, he made a five-inning rehab start for Single-A Potomac and in total missed four weeks.

None of that, of course, guarantees anything when Strasburg returns tonight to face the Padres in his hometown. Every pitch he throws will be watched closely, and there will be apprehension from plenty until he definitively proves he’s OK again. Such is the state of things now for a Nationals team with a magic number of 29 on Aug. 19. Everything they do now is with October in mind, not the present day.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS at SAN DIEGO PADRES
Where: Petco Park
Gametime: 8:40 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 1500 AM, XM 186/869, MLB.com
Weather: Clear, 72 degrees, wind 10 mph left field to right field

NATIONALS (73-47)
RF Andrew Stevenson
SS Adrian Sanchez
3B Anthony Rendon
1B Ryan Zimmerman
2B Howie Kendrick
CF Michael A. Taylor
LF Alejandro De Aza
C Jose Lobaton
RHP Stephen Strasburg

PADRES (54-68)
CF Manuel Margot
2B Carlos Asuaje
LF Jose Pirela
SS Yangervis Solarte
1B Wil Myers
3B Cory Spangenberg
RF Jabari Blash
C Austin Hedges
LHP Travis Wood

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