Stephen Strasburg outpitched Johan Santana for six innings in a marquee matchup of aces on the mend, and the Washington Nationals' bullpen made the lead stand up for a 4-0 victory over New York on the 50th anniversary of the Mets' first game.
Meeting in a blustery, chilly matinee, Strasburg (1-0) and Santana got off to an erratic start but settled into a duel between pitchers coming back from major arm operations.
Strasburg allowed just two hits and struck out nine in helping the Nationals take the final two games of the three-game series against their division rival with stellar pitching — Ross Detwiler shut down the Mets on Tuesday night.
Santana (0-1) allowed only five hits in five-plus innings but his wild pitch gave Washington a 1-0 lead in the second inning of a game that lasted 3 hours, 36 minutes even though the Mets had only three hits. New York pitchers combined to walk 10 and hit one batter.
Ryan Mattheus, Sean Burnett and Henry Rodriguez each pitched a scoreless inning for a Nationals' bullpen that is without closer Drew Storen, who is out with an elbow injury.
New York's bullpen gave up two bases-loaded walks and an RBI grounder to Chad Tracy in the eighth. By that time, much of the announced crowd of 34,614 had left.
The 33-year-old Santana, a two-time Cy Young Award winner, was making just his second start in 19 months after having left shoulder surgery. His operation was about two weeks after Strasburg had elbow ligament-replacement surgery in September 2010.
Santana's fastball was clocked at about the same speed (a high of 90 mph, reached once) as the 23-year-old phenom's changeup (89 mph). Strasburg's fastball peaked at 98 mph.
Strasburg gave up a single to his first batter, Ruben Tejada, and walked Daniel Murphy in a 26-pitch first inning. After starting the second with a walk, he found better command of his curveball and went on a run of retiring 10 in a row until hitting Ronny Cedeno with a pitch with one out in the fifth.
Ike Davis singled in the sixth — to end an 0-for-18 start. That was just the second hit for the Mets, who wore their white uniforms instead of their traditional pinstripes for the anniversary game.
Santana needed 27 pitches to get through the first. In the second, he bounced a slider in front of the plate that went to the backstop, allowing Mark DeRosa to score. DeRosa singled leading off the inning and had gone to third on Xavier Nady's single to right.
Santana retired nine in a row, striking out four straight at one point before allowing back-to-back hits in the fifth.
Despite having thrown 93 pitches through five innings, Santana was allowed to bat with a runner on first and one out. He struck out.
Santana then walked Jayson Werth with his 99th pitch — 56 were strikes — leading off the sixth. He was lifted for Manny Acosta.
Acosta loaded the bases with two straight walks, receiving mock cheers for his first two strikes. Nady lined to second, starting a double play.
NOTES: Roger Craig threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Craig started the Mets' opener in 1962 at St. Louis, an 11-4 loss. He led the team with 10 wins that year, throwing 13 complete games. ... Mets manager Terry Collins was ejected for arguing with plate umpire Larry Vanover. ... The Mets drew 197,672 for their first homestand this year, up from 184,429 for their first six home games last year. ... Nationals manager Davey Johnson had no new information on Storen (elbow) and slugger Michael Morse (back). He said tests on Morse, who had a setback in a minor league rehab game, were sent to Dr. James Andrews. Johnson wasn't certain if Storen went to see Andrews or whether his tests were sent to the esteemed orthopedist. ... Collins said he wouldn't be surprised to see 3B David Wright (broken pinkie finger) in the lineup Friday.