Washington Nationals: 5 storylines for trip to San Diego

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 16: Ryan Zimmerman
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 16: Ryan Zimmerman /
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Nearly a month after a nerve impingement in his right forearm shut him down, Stephen Strasburg returns to action Saturday night.

In a rehab start Monday for High-A Potomac, Strasburg used his entire arsenal of pitches, keeping the Salem Red Sox off balance over five innings. His curve had bite, the fastball hit 96 and a slider that froze young hitters. Except for a walk and double, he had the Sox swinging early and making contact. An efficient 66 pitches over five innings.

Now, he returns to his hometown of San Diego to begin his playoff preparations.

Before the heat and arm trouble zapped him, Strasburg rolled through the first half of 2017. A 9-3 record and 3.43 ERA earned him a trip to Miami.

His last full start before the injury, a 6-1 beauty in Cincinnati on July 17, Strasburg fanned 11 and walked one over seven innings and 105 pitches. In that total, he induced 20 swing-and-miss strikes. Not a season high, but the third time in 19 starts he topped 20.

You can argue whether Strasburg or Gonzalez deserves a potential Game 2 start in the playoffs, but the Nats will need everything Strasburg can give to have a successful playoff run. No one has said if there are any limitations upon his return, but do not expect him to top 100 pitches a start the rest of the regular season.

His health is vital.