Stephen Strasburg, however, may have a tougher time if Yasiel Puig returns.Strasburg will take the hill Wednesday night in the finale of a three-game set against the Dodgers, who will send out a pitcher the Nationals are quite familiar with.Two-time NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw came off the disabled list Tuesday and didn't disappoint, allowing no runs over seven innings with nine strikeouts and no walks in Los Angeles' 8-2 win over Washington.The left-hander allowed nine of the Nationals' 12 hits, but they were 2 for 10 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 runners in the game."He was nasty," Washington catcher Jose Lobaton said of Kershaw. "He was right in the zone. He was throwing strikes, aggressive, big curveball."The Nationals (18-15) will look to get a similar effort out of Strasburg (2-2, 3.60 ERA), who has failed to get a decision in three career starts against the Dodgers (19-15)but has compiled a 1.42 ERA with 19 strikeouts over 19 innings of work.He's allowed only one homer over those three outings, which came off the bat of Hanley Ramirez in the Dodgers' 3-2 win in Strasburg's most recent outing against them July 19.Puig, who went 0 for 3 with a strikeout against Strasburg in that contest, said he's feeling fine and is likely to return Wednesday after manager Don Mattingly decided to rest him an extra day despite the right fielder being cleared to play.The Dodgers piled up 14 hits in Tuesday's victory without Puig, who had been experiencing headaches since crashing into the outfield wall Sunday in Miami."I feel good," Puig told the team's official website through an interpreter. "My head's not bothering me anymore. My head doesn't hurt like it did (on Monday)."Washington has won five of Strasburg's seven starts this season, including a 5-3 comeback win at Philadelphia on Friday in which the right-hander allowed three unearned runs in six innings with five strikeouts.He will be opposed by Dan Haren (4-0, 2.39), who is thriving in his first season with the Dodgers after spending 2013 with the Nationals. Haren has been great on the road, going 3-0 with a 2.95 ERA while allowing just one home run over 18 1/3 innings.However, he did not seem to enjoy the surroundings at Nationals Park when he pitched there. In his career starting at Washington, Haren has a 5.26 ERA and opposing batters have hit .270 against him.Wednesday's series finale will close a nine-game trip for the Dodgers, who have gone 5-3 so far on the swing. Los Angeles is hitting .293 on the trip and has scored 43 runs, while 22 of its 89 hits have gone for extra bases.The Dodgers have won six of their last seven meetings with Washington.
Since the start of last season, Ian Desmond is batting .217 against pitches in the outer third of the plate or farther outside (including .149 this year). Sixty-seven percent of Dan Haren's pitches to righties this season have been in that area, the second-highest percentage among qualified starters.
Stephen Strasburg allowed two runs in the first inning Wednesday and none for the remainder of the game. That continues a trend this season where he has struggled early and settled down late. Strasburg's ERA in the first two innings this season is 7.31, from the third inning on it is 1.44.