WASHINGTON -- Matt Harvey is better ... again.
In a triumphant return from Tommy John surgery in his first regular-season start in 593 days, Harvey tossed six scoreless innings and the New York Mets beat the Washington Nationals, 6-3, Thursday afternoon before an announced crowd of 25,327.
The Mets (2-1) won a series against Washington for the first time since Aug. 30-Sept. 1, 2013. They went 4-15 against the Nats last season.
The only thing that stopped Harvey was his pitch count. The Mets have pledged to be conservative in April, so Harvey was pulled after six innings, having thrown 91 pitches. He allowed four hits and one walk and struck out nine in his first regular-season game since Aug. 24, 2013. Harvey departed with a 6-0 lead.
Bryce Harper struck out in all three of his at-bats against Harvey, on upper-zone fastballs that registered 97, 97 and 96 mph.
Harvey’s fastball averaged nearly 96 mph, equivalent to during his dominating 2013 season.
Harvey outdueled Stephen Strasburg, as he did in their only other meeting, on April 19, 2013, when fans at Citi Field chanted “Har-vey’s better, Har-vey’s better.” Harvey took a scoreless effort into the seventh inning that day in an eventual 7-1 win by the Mets.
On Thursday, Harvey’s first regular-season pitch in 19 1/2 months was a 96 mph fastball to Michael Taylor, which was taken for a strike.
Harvey faced runners on the corners with two outs in the second, but struck out Jose Lobaton looking at an 83 mph curveball to escape. David Wright’s diving stop toward the third-base line had limited Dan Uggla to an infield single rather than an extra-base hit during the preceding at-bat. It forced Ian Desmond to stop at third base.
In reality, Strasburg was plenty good, too. An error by Desmond at shortstop led to a four-run third inning. Three of the runs were unearned. Actually, had Desmond cleanly fielded Wright’s grounder, the Nats likely would have turned an inning-ending double play before any runs had scored. Desmond had two errors on Opening Day, too. In all, six of the 10 runs the Mets produced in the series were unearned thanks to Desmond miscues.
After Desmond’s third-inning error Thursday, Michael Cuddyer opened the scoring with a bases-loaded single to right field -- his first RBI as a Met. Daniel Murphy followed with a run-scoring infield single on a ball chopped into the ground. With two outs and the bases still loaded, Travis d'Arnaud continued his hot start by dropping a two-run single into center field.
D’Arnaud became the second catcher in franchise history to produce an RBI in each of the Mets’ opening three games. He joined John Buck, who performed the feat in 2013. D’Arnaud went 5-for-11 with four RBIs in the series.
Wright chased Strasburg with a two-run single in the sixth as the Mets took a 6-0 lead. The pro-Mets contingent at Nationals Park chanted the familiar “Har-vey’s better, Har-vey’s better” as Strasburg headed toward the dugout.
Debutant: Left-hander Alex Torres, acquired from the San Diego Padres during the final week of spring training, had an unremarkable Mets debut. He entered with a 6-0 lead to begin the seventh and walked two of the three batters he faced, while going to a three-ball count with the other. Torres walked 5½ batters per nine innings last season with the Padres -- the eighth-highest rate in the majors among pitchers with at least 50 innings.
Buddy Carlyle allowed both runners inherited from Torres to score, on a two-run double by Taylor.
Torres pitched without the protective cap he wore last season. He did not like the 2015 redesign and is awaiting further modifications.