A night after losing to the Indians on a bang-bang play at the plate, the Nationals got a late victory of their own on Saturday, eking out a 7-6 win thanks to Anthony Rendon's first Major League home run in the ninth inning.
And the good news gets better. In Sunday's rubber game, the Nationals will welcome back their ace, right-hander Stephen Strasburg. Strasburg hasn't pitched since May 31 because of a strained back muscle, but he has allowed one earned run or less in five consecutive starts (including his injury-shortened two-inning outing May 31). He threw a simulated game and bullpen sessions last week and is ready to return to the mound.
"I didn't even really feel like I threw at all," Strasburg said after a bullpen session last week. "I feel the strength has really stayed there, even though I missed a couple starts."
Strasburg is 3-5 this season, but his record has not been indicative of his performance. The 24-year-old has a 2.54 ERA and eight quality starts in 12 outings this season.
The Indians will counter with righty Corey Kluber, who is coming off a dazzling start in Texas. Kluber gave up one run on six hits over eight innings against a potent Rangers lineup, striking out three and walking three. He is 4-4 this season with a 4.08 ERA.
"[Kluber] is getting better right in front of our eyes," manager Terry Francona said after the Indians' 5-2 win. "For him to go out there today and kind of shoulder that responsibility, we're really proud of him."
Indians: Injured Perez to make rehab appearance Sunday
Injured closer Chris Perez will face live hitters for the first time since May 26 when he makes a rehab appearance for Class A Lake County on Sunday. Perez is on the 15-day disabled list with a right shoulder strain.
The Tribe's closer did not have any pain in his shoulder during two recent bullpen sessions, including one on Friday. But he did say that he's a bit rusty and needs to improve his command.
"No pain or anything -- just a little rusty," Perez said. "We'll see how it goes tomorrow. If I throw like I did yesterday, I'll probably need another [rehab] appearance."
Nationals: Harper, Ramos suffer setbacks
Manager Davey Johnson said Saturday that outfielder Bryce Harper and catcher Wilson Ramos recently suffered setbacks in their rehab processes.
Harper, who is on the 15-day disabled list with bursitis in his left knee, had some puffiness in that knee after a series of motion exercises. Johnson said the team is not concerned about the swelling.
Ramos' setback does not seem as serious as feared. The Nationals' catcher re-injured his strained left hamstring last week during a baserunning drill, but Johnson expects him to play in a Minor League game by the end of the month.
• After having a career-high 15-game hitting streak snapped on Friday, shortstop Ian Desmond started a new streak on Saturday by launching a solo home run in the second inning. In 12 games this month, Desmond is batting .422 with two doubles, three home runs and 13 RBIs.
• The Indians are 3-1 in rubber matches this season, while the Nationals are 5-5.
• Before his solo shot on Saturday, Indians third baseman Mark Reynolds had gone 13 days without a home run. In that span, he went 7-for-48 (.146) with one RBI and 21 strikeouts.
• The Nationals have scored 237 runs this season, only five of which have come in the ninth inning, including Rendon's home run on Saturday.
Tom Schad is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.