Nationals hope to win Strasburg’s homecoming to San Diego

The Padres return to Petco Park Monday night fresh from winning two straight from the Dodgers to win the Mexico Series in Monterrey.

But that is not the homecoming that is drawing the most attention from Padres fans.

Stephen Strasburg will be making a rare Petco Park appearance Monday night in the first of three games between the Padres and Nationals.

Strasburg is still quite the celebrity in San Diego. A native San Diegan, Strasburg went from West Hills High in the suburb of Santee to San Diego State where he pitched three seasons for the late Tony Gwynn, who was the Aztecs coach.

In 2009, Strasburg went 13-1 for the Aztecs with a 1.32 earned run average. He was named the National Pitcher of the Year before being the first overall pick by the Nationals in the 2009 draft. A year later, Strasburg was in the major leagues and the 6-foot-4 right-hander remains a favorite of San Diego fans.

But Monday night will mark only Strasburg’s fourth start in his hometown.

Injuries and rotation schedule have prevented Strasburg from pitching at Petco Park for most of Washington’s annual visits to San Diego.

In his three previous starts at Petco Park, Strasburg is 2-1 with a 2.84 earned run average, yielding seven runs (six earned) on 12 hits and five walks with 19 strikeouts in 19 innings. The Padres have hit a robust .176 against Strasburg at Petco Park.

Overall, Strasburg has made eight starts against the Padres, going 6-2 with a 2.94 ERA. He has given up 17 runs (16 earned) on 38 hits and 13 walks with 66 strikeouts in 49 innings.

Strasburg is 3-3 this season with a 3.47 ERA in seven starts, a slow start since both 2016 and 2017 produced career-best 15-4 seasons with last year’s 2.52 ERA also being his best mark for a full season. He struck out 11 Pirates in his most recent outing, picking up his first win in nearly a month.

Strasburg will be taking the mound as the Nationals attempt to get their eighth win in nine games. The Nationals took two of three from the Philadelphia Phillies and concluded the series with Sunday’s 5-4 win when Max Scherzer struck out 15 in 6 1/3 innings and Wilmer Difo hit the game-winning single in the ninth.

“The team feels energized, they feel great,” Difo said through a translator. “When you win like we did today, it just gives you more motivation to keep battling.”

The Padres will counter Monday night with right-hander Tyson Ross, who is 2-2 with a 3.28 ERA in six starts. In his last start at San Francisco, Ross allowed one run on four hits and three walks with nine strikeouts over six innings.

Ross is 1-1 over his last four starts, allowing seven runs (six earned) on 18 hits and 10 walks with 31 strikeouts in 23 innings for a 2.35 ERA. On April 20, Ross pitched a no-hitter for 7 2/3 innings before the bid for the first no-hitter in Padres history ended on his 127th pitch.

Ross, 31, is known to have one of the best sliders in the National League. And he throws one of the highest percentage (46.5 percent) of sliders in the major leagues.

Ross is 2-1 with a 4.76 ERA in six appearances (three starts) against the Nationals. He has given up 15 runs (12 earned) on 21 hits and 11 walks with 25 strikeouts in 22 2/3 innings. Ross is at his best at Petco Park, where he is 14-17 with a 2.78 in 49 appearances (40 starts).

San Diego is attempting to win three straight for the second time this season. After being no-hit Friday, the Padres wrapped up their series with a 3-0 win on Sunday.

Eric Homser homered for the third time in the last five games while Eric Lauer pitched six strong innings.

“We realized this series was going to be special,” Hosmer told reporters. “We wanted to come here and put on a good show for them. I’m happy we were on top.”