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The Debut II: Strasburg throws five scoreless innings

Stephen Strasburg(notes) sent a pointed message to Washington Nationals fans during his much-anticipated return from Tommy John surgery on Tuesday night.

Let the hope — and the hype — resume.

One year and three days after undergoing a pitcher's most-dreaded operation, the arm of the Nats' promising future posted an encouraging line against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Nationals Park: Five scoreless innings, two hits, zero walks and four strikeouts over 56 varied and efficient pitches.

The Debut II: Strasburg throws five scoreless inningsAfter giving up a double to Dee Gordon(notes) to start the game, the 23-year-old Strasburg retired 11 straight batters. He delivered first-pitch strikes to 14 of the 17 batters he faced, threw a fastball that was clocked at 99 mph by MASN'S radar gun and mixed in a changeup that measured at 90. He pitched long enough to qualify for the win — leaving the game after five frames — though the Nats' relief pitchers had other ideas in allowing the Dodgers to tie the game before a seventh-inning rain delay.

Strasburg was even productive at the plate, laying down a sacrifice bunt that led to a two-run error by Aaron Miles(notes), and scoring on a Jayson Werth(notes) groundout later in the inning.

Strasburg's outing didn't match the magnitude of his MLB debut in June 2010 — rainy Nats Park was far from full and Bob Costas was nowhere to be found — but the truth is that a similar start wasn't necessary. For five innings, Strasburg showed that the promise that began with that 14-strikeout performance against the Pittsburgh Pirates survived the snapping of a ligament against the Philadelphia Phillies.

A good start in more ways than one.

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