Zack Greinke recently sent Dodgers manager Don Mattingly a text message gauging his fitness level before taking the mound for the first time since fracturing his left clavicle last month against the Padres.

The gist being, Greinke was more than ready to compete but expecting him to be in midseason form was probably pushing it.

Maybe Greinke was just lowering expectations a bit considering he was coming back a month earlier than anticipated and didn't want to needlessly elevate hopes.

Perhaps he was simply hustling the Washington Nationals, who knew full well the 29-year-old right-hander was making his first start since getting bum-rushed by San Diego's Carlos Quentin after Greinke hit him with a pitch.

Or maybe he just underestimated himself.

In any event, Greinke looked very much like a guy making his 15 th start of the season - not his third after spending the last month on the disabled list while pitching into the sixth inning and giving up one earned run on five hits.

More important he put the Dodgers in position to beat the Washington Nationals 3-1 for their second win in a row thanks to just enough offense and the scoreless backing of five relief pitchers.

"It was fun," Greinke said. "It was a good game all the way around. We played well."

Greinke was lifted with one out in the sixth and Adam LaRoche, who hit a fourth-inning solo home run off him, due up. He threw 83 pitches, 53 for strikes, and struck out four while not issuing a walk.

About the only thing he didn't do was stretch himself out a bit further, but with the Dodgers cautiously watching his pitch count he was pulled in the sixth inning.

Most important, he felt fine afterward. And that's pretty remarkable since it was only 35 days ago Greinke suffered the injury.

"It feels pretty good," Greinke said. "I felt I was healthy enough to pitch over two weeks ago. I just wasn't sharp enough to pitch. It was just kind of getting that back."

He left with the lead as the Dodgers - with help from his own bat - backed him up with a pair of runs on seven hits over the first five innings.

"It's pretty amazing what this guy was able to do tonight," Mattingly said. "What is it, four weeks ago? It's just amazing he's throwing strikes like that. He knows what he's doing."