Strasburg throws 5 strong innings in loss to Mets

Stephen Strasburg settled himself down and rebounded from his worst outing of the spring.

Making sure not to overthrow, Strasburg pitched five solid innings and gave up only two hits — though one of them was a solo homer by Lucas Duda that sent the New York Mets to a 2-0 victory over the Washington Nationals on Tuesday night.

"I think it's something I went into the game wanting to work on, among other things," Strasburg said. "It's all about locating. I feel like I made a lot more quality pitches down in the zone, and it's good. It's a good adjustment."

The right-hander struck out three and walked one, throwing 53 of his 85 pitches for strikes.

"He pitched with much better command, didn't overthrow and he threw some quality pitches," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "He had better feel later in the game with his breaking ball. He stayed within himself and pitched, and that's what I want to see. ... I saw what I wanted to see. He is right where he needs to be."

It was a good night for the Mets, too.

They stopped an 0-8-1 skid in Grapefruit League play, one day after the team's owners reached an agreement in court with the trustee for Bernard Madoff's fraud victims, a deal that requires them to pay millions less than they might have and stabilizes the club's financial future.

The settlement makes it likely that Mets CEO Fred Wilpon and team President Saul Katz, co-majority owners, will pay much less than the agreed-upon $162 million, if any at all. It also guarantees they will owe nothing until the end of four years, and it averts a high-profile civil trial.

"From just an overall organizational standpoint, the landscape today is a lot brighter than it was two or three days ago, going into a potential three-week trial," Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said.

"Obviously, we're very happy for Fred and Saul. And putting something behind us that has been an overhang for the franchise for well over a year — just about from the time I arrived — I think is a real plus."

Still, Alderson said the deal doesn't mean the Mets will suddenly become big spenders again. New York has slashed its payroll by about $50 million this offseason.

"The immediate impact on our payroll is going to be negligible. The last time I heard, Albert Pujols already had signed for 2012. So those opportunities are past us," Alderson said. "I do think the overall environment will be much more positive and will allow us and fans to focus more on the team and less on the other externalities, if you will."

Mets center fielder Andres Torres strained his left calf running down a ball hit to the outfield in the second inning but said he expects to be out only a few days.

New York starter Dillon Gee threw 5 2-3 spotless innings, allowing three hits — including an infield single by Strasburg in his first at-bat of the spring. Gee struck out four and walked one.

"I didn't throw quite as good today (as last outing), but I actually did feel better," Gee said. "I couldn't get the curveball for strikes, but at least the sinker was working today. I was a little off, but definitely pleased with the results."

Duda homered with two outs in the fourth, one pitch after he thought he had struck out looking at a curveball. It was the only run yielded by Strasburg, who is 0-3 with a 5.52 ERA this spring.

Ike Davis drove in the other run with a single in the sixth after Jason Bay walked with two outs and stole second.

New York improved to 4-11, the worst spring training record in the majors.

Strasburg had a bit of a scare in the second inning when he had to dodge the barrel of Josh Thole's bat, which splintered off and came flying at him. Strasburg ducked out of the way, fielded Thole's slow grounder and threw him out at first.

Nationals outfielder Rick Ankiel went 1 for 2 in his return from a strained hamstring that had sidelined him since March 9.

Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada, also back from injury, had one hit in two at-bats.

NOTES: Torres' backup, Scott Hairston, is nursing a strained left oblique muscle but went through his first workout since the injury. Hairston did some light jogging in pregame drills with his teammates but did not swing a bat. ... Mets manager Terry Collins said he hopes to get third baseman David Wright (rib cage muscle) into games by the end of the week.