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Nats’ Strasburg back from bullpen, starts Game 2 vs Kershaw

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Stephen Strasburg

Washington Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg (37) pitches during the sixth inning of a National League wild card baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Nationals Park, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Back from a one-day stint in the bullpen, Washington star Stephen Strasburg is set to start Game 2 of the NL Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Strasburg, who earned the win in relief with three shutout innings in a dramatic NL wild-card victory over Milwaukee, will get the ball on Friday against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw.

“He said he feels really good, so he’s ready to go,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said Thursday before Game 1 at Dodger Stadium. “There’s no limitations. Hopefully, he gives us seven, eight strong innings.”

Strasburg struck out four and walked none on 34 pitches in Tuesday’s elimination game. He made the first relief appearance of his career, taking over for starter Max Scherzer.

Martinez likened Strasburg’s relief appearance to a bullpen session.

“Yeah, it was definitely the most adrenaline I’ve ever had for a bullpen,” said the right-hander, who hadn’t worked in relief since his freshman year at San Diego State in 2007.

Two years later, Strasburg was the top overall pick in the draft.

“It’s pretty obvious that the expectations that people had for me from early on were a little insane,” he said.

As a rookie, he underwent Tommy John surgery and missed most of the 2011 season. The following year, he got shut down in September when the Nationals wanted to protect his arm.

Ten years into his big-league career, Strasburg has learned how to manage everything better _ his body, others’ expectations _ and make adjustments when necessary.

“You set yourself to your own standards,” he said, “and those are always going to be more important than what others think you should be doing.”

Strasburg was 18-6 with a 3.32 ERA and threw an NL-high 209 innings during the regular season.

“My arm’s felt great all year,” he said.

By starting Strasburg in Game 2, he’s available to return on normal rest for a potential Game 5 next Wednesday back in Los Angeles.

Martinez wasn’t willing to reveal his starter for Game 3 in Washington on Sunday.

The Dodgers will send left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu to the mound in Game 3. The South Korean’s 2.32 ERA led the majors.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said with Kershaw going in Game 2, the left-hander would be available to possibly pitch out of the bullpen if Game 5 is necessary.

Kershaw did it three years ago in Game 5 at Washington, with the Dodgers closing out an NLDS victory.

“I don’t think I’ll have any problem bouncing back,” Kershaw said. “I’m not really focused on that right now though. But if there is a Game 5 and I’m asked to be in the ‘pen I’ll be ready for that, for sure.”

Kershaw was 16-5 with a 3.03 ERA in the regular season, the highest ERA since his rookie year in 2008.

The Dodgers are making their seventh straight postseason appearance. They’re coming off consecutive losses in the World Series the last two years. They haven’t won a World Series since 1988, the same year Kershaw was born.

“Every year that you make the postseason you realize that it’s one less year on your career, one less year that you have a chance to win, so you become more grateful and more appreciative,” Kershaw said. “Maybe with each passing year maybe a little bit more sense of urgency, for sure.”

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