Strasburg lined up to return for second half opener (Nats lose 2-0)

PITTSBURGH - Stephen Strasburg is on track to take the mound for the Nationals in their first game coming out of the All-Star break.

Thumbnail image for Strasburg grey looking down.jpgStrasburg, out since June 8 with right shoulder inflammation, made his first rehab start Tuesday night for Single-A Potomac, allowing one run on two hits in 3 1/3 innings during a 7-4 win at Lynchburg. He struck out five, walked only one and threw 34 of his 57 pitches for strikes.

"And I like the fact that he (velocity) was pretty good," manager Davey Martinez said. "He topped out at 98, which is nice. And he consistently was at 95."

The plan now for Strasburg: He'll rejoin the Nationals in New York and throw a bullpen session Thursday in front of coaches and club officials. He's then slated to make one more rehab start Sunday, most likely at Potomac.

If all goes well, Strasburg would then line up to come off the disabled list and start the Nationals' second-half opener July 20 against the Braves.

"He's got a bullpen session tomorrow, and we'll see how he feels after that," Martinez said. "But he says he feels pretty good."

Ryan Zimmerman, meanwhile, remains with the team on the road and will travel to New York to continue his rehab from a strained right oblique muscle that has sidelined him since May 12. The veteran first baseman is scheduled to head back to Washington on Sunday and fulfill his duties as one of the Nats' All-Star Ambassadors.

Zimmerman may not be in D.C. for all of the All-Star festivities, though. Martinez said he could go on a rehab assignment Monday, and that would take priority over All-Star responsibilities, though a firm plan has not been established yet.

Update: The good news: Gio Gonzalez has been working quickly and efficiently so far today. The bad news: He made one big mistake to Starling Marte that turned into a two-run homer in the bottom of the third. Otherwise, Gonzalez has been exactly what the Nats needed him to be today. He's through four innings on 50 pitches, seemingly comfortable working with Matt Wieters again. The Nats lineup, meanwhile, already has had several opportunities but has been unable to cash in. Through four innings, they're 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position. Gonzalez actually led off the third with a double to right-center, yet Adam Eaton, Juan Soto and Anthony Rendon couldn't advance him past second base. It's been that kind of a day so far. Er, that kind of a season so far. Nats down 2-0 after four.

Update II: And that's how the game ended. Down 2-0 after four innings, the Nationals never did crack the Pirates pitching staff and suffered yet another shutout loss, their eighth in their last 29 games. Gonzalez pitched well, but it didn't matter. They dropped this series, fell back to the .500 mark and now head to New York for a four-game series to close out the season's first half.

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