Stephen Strasburg was left watching from the dugout two years ago when the Washington Nationals made their most recent trip to the playoffs.
With Strasburg healthy and pitching well of late, Washington could be in for a much deeper run this time around.
The right-hander takes the mound Sunday looking to continue his hot stretch as the visiting Nationals try to complete a four-game sweep of the Miami Marlins.
Strasburg went 15-6 with a 3.16 ERA when the Nationals won the NL East in 2012, but with the pitcher coming off Tommy John surgery, management decided to stick with an innings limit it announced before that season and shelved him for the playoffs.
Washington lost in five games to St. Louis in the Division Series without him, though Strasburg (12-11, 3.34 ERA) appears in top form heading into one of his final regular-season starts before the Nationals (90-64) begin this playoff run.
He's 2-1 with a 1.69 ERA in his last four starts after giving up five hits in seven scoreless innings of Monday's 4-2 win over Atlanta. It marked the seventh time in his last 10 outings that he's allowed fewer than two runs.
"He was in control," manager Matt Williams said. "He had a little bit of a tight neck from sleeping, but he battled through that. So he wasn't on his `A' game but he sure pitched like it."
Strasburg was roughed up for six runs in four innings of an 11-2 loss to Miami on April 15, but he was on top of his game against the Marlins on July 29 while allowing one run and four hits in seven innings. He took a tough-luck 3-0 defeat in that contest against Miami, which counters with the struggling Nathan Eovaldi on Sunday.
Eovaldi (6-12, 4.48) has gone 0-6 with a 6.56 ERA in seven starts since beating Cincinnati on Aug. 8. He's pitched fewer than five innings in three of his last five, including allowing six runs in 4 1-3 innings of Tuesday's 9-1 loss to the New York Mets.
The right-hander's 186 2-3 innings are 67 1-3 more than he's thrown in any season, but manager Mike Redmond doesn't believe that's the issue.
"It's hard to say a guy's running out of steam when he's still running it up there at 96, 97 (mph)," Redmond said. "He's just making mistakes. He's making mistakes and they're making him pay."
Eovaldi didn't have his best stuff the last time he faced the Nationals, either, giving up five runs in 5 1-3 innings of Miami's 7-6 comeback win July 28.
The Nationals were the ones who rallied Saturday, scoring each of their runs in the seventh inning of a 3-2 victory over Miami (74-80). Ryan Zimmerman, who missed the previous 55 games with a hamstring injury, had an RBI triple before Asdrubal Cabrera added one of his own to tie the game.
Denard Span's RBI single proved to be the difference.
"It was fun to be out there and be part of the team and be out with the guys in a really good win," Zimmerman said.
The Marlins had won three of four entering this series but have scored only twice in each contest. Rookie Justin Bour had two hits and drove in a run Saturday.
Miami has dropped six of nine since losing MVP candidate Giancarlo Stanton for the season when he was hit in the face by a pitch Sept. 11.
"I'm proud of these guys," Redmond said. "We've battled through a lot of adversity. They've given me everything they have every single day."