Young fireballers square off at Citi Field

People around the New York Mets were excited to see what Matt Harvey was going to do in his first full year with the club.

So far he's exceeding expectations.

The right-hander shoots for his fourth win of the season and tries to follow up his near no-hitter on Friday when the Mets open a three-game series against Stephen Strasburg and the Washington Nationals at Citi Field.

Harvey has been the best pitcher in baseball in the early going and was at his best on Saturday in Minnesota, as he held the Twins hitless until Justin Morneau homered with two outs in the seventh and only allowed two hits overall. He also struck out seven and improved to 3-0 to go along with a 0.82 ERA.

"(Harvey) knows he can compete here," Collins said. "He trusts his stuff. He knows if he makes pitches, he's going to get outs up here. I think that month and a half he spent here last year was a tremendous experience leading into this year. I think he pitches with great confidence up here, and he knows that he's got good enough stuff to get the best hitters in the game out."

Strasburg, meanwhile, comes into Friday's opener having dropped his last two starts. However, the right-handed phenom was terrific on Saturday against Atlanta, as he allowed two unearned runs and five hits in six innings of the 3-1 setback. He also struck out seven.

"I think (the offspeed stuff) got more consistent there in the end." Strasburg said. "I wanted to go out there and try to go deep in the ballgame, but unfortunately I threw a lot of pitches early, so that kind of spoiled that. But at least I was able to go out and give six."

It was quite a contrast from his previous outing which saw him surrender six runs in 5 1/3 innings of work.

Strasburg has faced the Mets three times and is 2-0 against them with a 1.50 ERA.

Washington comes into this set after a series win in Miami that culminated with a 6-1 win on Wednesday. Kurt Suzuki homered, tripled and drove in two runs, while Bryce Harper went 4-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored to lead the way in that one.

On the injury front for the Nats, outfielder Denard Span should be back in the lineup on Friday after sitting two games because of the flu. Second baseman Danny Espinosa, though, remains questionable with a bruised right hand.

Also third baseman Ryan Zimmerman is expected to play after leaving Wednesday's tilt with cramps.

New York returns home on Friday after a nine-game road trip that was interrupted by three postponements due to weather. The Mets dropped the final three games of the trip, including an 11-3 setback to the Colorado Rockies on Thursday.

They were 4-5 on the trek.

"We're glad it's over and we know the weather's going to start changing soon, start getting baseball weather," Mets manager Terry Collins said on Thursday. "We didn't swing the bats today either. We didn't get a lot of opportunities. We've got to start taking BP like we normally do and get back on our schedule."

Washington was 14-4 versus the Mets last season, going 8-1 on the road.