Washington, DC (SportsNetwork.com) - In his first regular-season start after Tommy John surgery, Matt Harvey tossed six scoreless innings, allowed just four hits, struck out nine and walked one, as the New York Mets held on to defeat the Washington Nationals, 6-3, on Thursday afternoon.
Harvey last pitched in a game 593 days ago and his return was exactly what the doctor ordered for the revamped Mets, who won two of three in this season- opening series from the defending NL East champions.
"He's such an impressive guy to be around," said New York manager Terry Collins of Harvey. "Nothing he does surprises you."
New York, looking to turn things around and start a rivalry with the Nationals after six straight losing seasons, dropped 15 of 19 to Washington last season and won a series against its division foes for the first time since winning two of three Aug. 30 - Sep. 1, 2013.
"The long anticipation was setting in," said Harvey. "Today was a good start. It was good to get the win and win the series."
Harvey (1-0) threw 91 pitches, striking out Washington slugger Bryce Harper three times, and outdueled Stephen Strasburg in a rare battle of aces in the third game of the season. Harvey last pitched in a game on Aug. 24, 2013, one day before learning he had a slight tear of the UCL ligament in his pitching elbow.
"It's been long," Harvey said. "It took a while, but I'm glad I'm finally here."
His return coincides with a youth movement that includes a couple of well- placed veterans, all of whom contributed in the rubber game of this series.
Mainstay David Wright had two hits and two RBI, while veteran free agent addition outfielder Michael Cuddyer also had two hits and drove in a run. Meanwhile, youngsters like Harvey and his battery mate Travis d'Arnaud also came through. D'Arnaud went 2-for-4 with two RBI.
Strasburg (0-1) suffered the loss, allowing six runs -- three earned -- on nine hits over 5 1/3 innings. The right-hander, who has also had Tommy John surgery, struck out five and walked three.
Ian Desmond had a rough series for Washington, committing his third error of the series in the third inning leading to a four-run frame for the Mets.
After Curtis Granderson singled, Wright reached on a fielding error by Desmond at short that could've been an inning-ending double play. Strasburg then hurt his cause, hitting Lucas Duda with a pitch to load the bases for Cuddyer, who singled to right to chase home Granderson.
Daniel Murphy followed with a high-chop infield hit to no-man's land between the mound and first base to score Wright with the second run, and one out later, d'Arnaud blooped a single to left to score Duda and Cuddyer for a four- run lead.
Desmond's three errors in the series led to six unearned run. His two miscues in the series opener allowed the Mets to escape with a 3-1 win against ace Max Scherzer.
"I wasn't as fine as I like to be, but after we got that big lead, pounding the zone was important," said Harvey. "The last thing I wanted to do was get behind guys."
New York forced Strasburg from the game in the sixth inning. D'Arnaud and Wilmer Flores led off the inning with singles and Granderson loaded the bases with a one-out walk for Wright, who singled to right to score two for a 6-0 lead.
Washington reliever Xavier Cedeno came on for Strasburg to strike out Duda and Cuddyer to end the inning to limit the damage.
The Nationals got on the board in the seventh when Michael Taylor doubled home two runs off reliever Buddy Carlyle, the first runs charged to the New York bullpen this season. Both runs were charged to Mets reliever Alex Torres, who started the inning and walked two batters.
Washington added another run in the ninth off Jeurys Familia when Reed Johnson singled home Desmond, but couldn't get any closer.
Harvey went 1-1 with a 1.19 ERA, striking out 22 and walking one, in six spring training starts ... Desmond's second-inning double was his first hit of the season. He ended 2-for-3 ... Granderson's third-inning single ended an 0- for-7 slump to start the season ... The Mets travel to Atlanta for a three-game weekend set against the Braves ... Washington travels to Philadelphia for its first road trip of the season beginning on Friday.