The Washington Times - September 17, 2011, 03:20PM

Stephen Strasburg will take the mound on a chilly night in Washington for his third major league start of the season and the hope is this one will be the perfect blend of his first start (which was impeccable) and his second (which featured a few struggles). Nationals manager Davey Johnson said earlier this week that Strasburg would not be on a pitch count for tonight, but he said that last time as well and admitted later the limit was around 70. He threw 57 pitches in three somewhat laborious innings.

Strasburg was reluctant to come out on Sunday, though, admitting that he was just beginning to get into a groove. We’ll see how the Marlins hitters fare against him tonight and how efficient he is with his innings.

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Update: In his session with reporters pre-game, Johnson said that he would try to hold Strasburg to about 70 pitches tonight but, again, will have a longer leash and go by what he sees from the right-hander.

“I was more worried the first two times out with the pressure and all the publicity and all that,” Johnson said. “I didn’t want to take him to where he was tired. Today I’ll take him further.”

Johnson also said that Strasburg is still on track to make two more starts this year. After tonight, he’ll start Friday against the Atlanta Braves at Nationals Park and, if all goes according to plan, would be on track to start on regular rest in the season finale in Florida on Sept. 28.

The Nationals rotation lines up like this for the immediate future: Chien-Ming Wang Sunday, Ross Detwiler and Tommy Milone Tuesday in Philadelphia, Brad Peacock on Wednesday, John Lannan on Thursday, Strasburg on Friday. Peacock is not expected to make another start, though, which would put Strasburg back in line to start the season’s final game. 

For tonight, here’s the lineup behind him, which features both Jayson Werth and Michael Morse after a night off for both. The Marlins lineup will come later.

Nationals:

Ian Desmond SS
Roger Bernadina RF
Ryan Zimmerman 3B
Michael Morse LF
Jayson Werth CF
Danny Espinosa 2B
Chris Marrero 1B
Wilson Ramos C
Stephen Strasburg P 

Marlins:

Emilio Bonifacio SS
Omar Infante 2B
Mike Stanton RF
Logan Morrison LF
Gaby Sanchez 1B
Bryan Petersen CF
John Buck C
Matt Dominguez 3B
Chris Volstad P