CLEVELAND — Pretty much everything about Stephen Strasburg’s return from the disabled list went well except the result.
Washington’s ace right-hander allowed one run and one hit in five innings, but the Nationals‘ offense did nothing to support him in Sunday’s 2-0 loss to the Cleveland Indians.
“I felt really good and definitely could have gone for a few more innings, but they didn’t want me to,” he said. “It was good to be out there after two weeks.”
Strasburg (3-6) was activated before the game and made his first start since May 31 when he strained a muscle in his back. He showed flashes of the brilliance the Nationals have become accustomed to seeing by retiring eight in a row at one point and striking out four. Strasburg also showed some of the effects from the layoff by walking four and piling up 82 pitches.
“He was a little bit rusty and didn’t have his command, but I thought he settled in pretty well,” Washington manager Davey Johnson said. “He had a maximum of 80.”
The only hit Strasburg allowed was costly. Carlos Santana’s RBI single with one out in the fourth gave Cleveland starter Corey Kluber the only run he needed. Kluber (5-4) pitched eight shutout innings and escaped three big jams to win for the first time in 11 career starts at Progressive Field.
Kluber gave up seven hits, struck out eight and didn’t walk a batter. He wiggled out of trouble in the seventh after the Nationals loaded the bases with no outs.
Strasburg had gone 2-0 with a 1.17 ERA over a three-start stretch (three earned runs in 23 innings) before exiting his last appearance after two innings against Atlanta. He was placed on the disabled list six days later but was cleared to return following Thursday’s bullpen session in Colorado.
“I tried to pound the strike zone as much as I could, but it was a little bit hit or miss, which is to be expected,” Strasburg said.
Strasburg walked leadoff hitter Michael Bourn in the first before Mike Aviles hit into a double play. Jason Kipnis drew the second walk of the inning but Santana popped up. That began a stretch in which Strasburg retired eight straight.
“Once I got through the first inning, it started to click,” he said. “I got into some trouble when that happened, but it was a good feeling.”
Kipnis’ sacrifice fly in the eighth scored Cleveland’s other run.
Vinnie Pestano pitched the ninth for his first save of the season.
Indians first baseman Nick Swisher, in a 6-for-55 skid, didn’t play because of a sore left shoulder.