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Strasburg looks solid in tune-up start

Stephen Strasburg will make his long-awaited debut with the Nationals on Tuesday. Sound familiar?

Technically, it's only the phenom's season debut, since he appeared in 12 games for the Nationals last season. But after Strasburg missed a year due to Tommy John surgery, there may be nearly as many eyes on this debut as his first big league appearance a year ago. Certainly, it's been a long time coming.

"The bottom line is to go out there, get your innings in, build up the arm strength, go into the offseason healthy," Strasburg said earlier this week. "I'm not going to put any expectations on myself. I'm not going to win a Cy Young in four starts. I'm just going to try and help this team win some ballgames.

"It was my goal [to come back this season]. Besides that, I wanted to go into the offseason healthy. It looks like at this point, both are going to happen."

Strasburg is expected to pitch five or six innings on Tuesday against the Dodgers, who have dropped two straight after rattling off a season-best six consecutive wins.

Last year, Strasburg went 5-3 with a 2.91 ERA before undergoing elbow reconstruction in September. He was on a rehab assignment by August, going 1-1 with a 3.54 ERA in six games. Tuesday's start -- against Los Angeles southpaw Ted Lilly -- will be Strasburg's first big league game since Aug. 21, 2010, against the Phillies.

Lilly, meanwhile, has been on a mission to get back on track himself. The veteran recorded a 2.35 ERA in August after struggling through June and July. With a win against the Nationals on Tuesday, Lilly can achieve his first three-game winning streak of the season.

Dodgers: Ellis makes his mark
Catcher A.J. Ellis was one of the Dodgers' few bright spots in the 7-2 loss to the Nationals on Monday, going 2-for-4 and scoring one of the club's two runs.

Ellis has reached base in seven of his last 11 games, notching at least one hit in six of them. He has also scored four runs in that span. He has never faced Strasburg.

Nationals: Morse stays hot
First baseman Michael Morse, 2-for-4 on Monday with two homers and three RBIs, has been one of Washington's hottest hitters since the All-Star break.

Morse, who played left field on Monday, is batting .315 with 26 homers and 82 RBIs and has hit .324 with nine homers and 30 RBIs after the All-Star break.

He is 4-for-10 (.400) with a double, a homer and two RBIs in his career against Lilly.

Worth noting
• The Dodgers are 8-3 during a 24-games-in-24-days stretch that ends Sept. 18.

• Strasburg is expected to make four starts the rest of the year, all of them at Nationals Park. By next year, he is expected to be on an innings limit similar to what teammate Jordan Zimmermann was on this season.

Zimmermann, who had Tommy John surgery in 2009, pitched in seven games in '10 and threw 161 1/3 innings this year. The Nats have not announced how many innings Strasburg will pitch next season.

The young hurlers are expected to be Nos. 1-2 in Washington's rotation next year.

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