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Lilly strikes out nine over five frames

WASHINGTON -- Washington pitcher Stephen Strasburg seemed to be the subject of much of the talk before and after Tuesday night's game. Strasburg didn't find much trouble in five shutout innings against the Dodgers in his first start since having Tommy John surgery last September, and much of the postgame clubhouse discussion involved the right-hander.

But even though the Dodgers didn't do much against him, they did plenty after he left. Rod Barajas had a tie-breaking two-run double while Andre Ethier finished with four RBIs. Plus, six Dodger pitchers combined to do their own Strasburg impersonation and finished with a season-high 17 strikeouts as Los Angeles rallied for a 7-3 victory on a rainy night at Nationals Park.

Strasburg gave up a leadoff double to Dee Gordon in the first and then retired 11 in a row before Juan Rivera singled in the fourth. The right-hander then set down the final five batters he faced before coming out after five innings and 56 pitches -- the Nationals had said Strasburg was on a 60-pitch limit.

"He was good. We didn't do anything with him," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "He had good stuff. I thought we were a little anxious, though. It was almost like we were all jacked up facing him, and you're going to get on that heater. We needed to be a little more patient."

That didn't happen, as seven of the first nine Dodgers batters swung at the first pitch, letting Strasburg constantly get ahead and keep his pitch count down.

Strasburg finished with four strikeouts, two of which came from Ethier, who fanned in both of his at-bats.

"He definitely lives up to the hype," Ethier said. "When you hit spots with the stuff he has, it [makes] it tough. You can't miss your pitch. If you do, you'll find yourself on the bench real quick."

Washington manager Davey Johnson also liked what he saw, and with the pitch limit looming and the rain coming -- there was a 31-minute delay in the seventh -- he ended Strasburg's night after five innings.

"He was outstanding," Johnson said. "He looked totally relaxed, in control. He made it look easy."

The Nationals (65-75) were leading, 3-0, when Strasburg left. They scored all three runs in the second, with a throwing error from Dodgers starter Ted Lilly on a Strasburg sacrifice bunt bringing in one run and setting up another.

Lilly didn't get off to the best start himself. He gave up three runs on four hits in the first two innings and needed 59 pitches to get those first six outs. But Lilly turned it around to escape trouble in the second by retiring the final three batters he faced, and 12 of the last 13 he saw before exiting.

Lilly didn't give up another hit after the second and allowed three runs on four hits overall, but he used a sharp-breaking curve to help strike out nine batters. More importantly, he kept the Dodgers close.

"I made some mistakes at inopportune times," Lilly said. "I felt like I was throwing the ball well. It's nice when you [can come] out of that game with a win."

The comeback started when the Nationals' bullpen got involved. Los Angeles (69-72) rallied to tie the score with three runs in the sixth off Doug Slaten and Brad Peacock, making his Major League debut.

Peacock came in to face Kemp, who greeted him with an RBI single. He walked Rivera to load the bases before Ethier lined a two-run single to center to make it 3-3.

The Dodgers took the lead in the eighth when Barajas hit a two-run double off Henry Rodriguez (3-3). Ethier then added a two-run double in the ninth to give the Dodgers a 7-3 edge.

"I guess you take a sigh of relief after you get a guy out who's cruising in the game of because of the pitch count," Ethier said. "[Then you] get a chance to face guys you're a little more familiar with."

After Lilly recorded his nine strikeouts, five Los Angeles relievers combined for eight more K's over the final four innings. Matt Guerrier, Hong-Chih Kuo, Kenley Jansen, Mike MacDougal and Javy Guerra limited Washington to one run on three hits over those last four frames.

Jansen (2-1) got the win after he struck out the side in a scoreless seventh. The Dodgers struck out at least one Nationals hitter in eight of the nine innings.

Even though the Dodgers won, they faced more questions about what it was like to hit against Strasburg rather than how they rallied for another come-from-behind win. But there's no question that they were curious to see what the young right-hander had to offer.

"I've never had a chance to face him," Barajas said. "You want to face the best. You want to see what all the talk's about, and I'm sure everybody kind of felt the same way. These kind of challenges, as a competitor, you want to step up for these occasions. I was definitely looking forward to it."

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