Strasburg settles down, Nats end Mets' perfect home record
NEW YORK (AP) Stephen Strasburg seemed out of sorts - with his pitches, his catcher and the home plate umpire.
Then, as quickly as that 96 mph heater he zinged, he found his groove in a hurry.
Strasburg overcame a rocky start and the Washington Nationals became the first visiting team to win at Citi Field this season, beating the New York Mets 8-2 on Thursday night.
''He composed himself, he settled in nicely,'' Nationals manager Matt Williams said.
The Mets had opened 10-0 at home for a team record-tying 12-game streak over two seasons. The Nationals, however, have won 15 of their last 16 at the Mets' ballpark.
Washington took advantage of yet another error by shaky shortstop Wilmer Flores to rally for its third straight win, matching its longest streak this year. Bryce Harper hit two doubles, including a three-run drive in the ninth inning.
''Just know it's going to come,'' Harper said.
Strasburg (2-2) appeared agitated at the beginning. In his previous outing, a loss at Miami, he got into a pointed discussion on the bench with pitching coach Steve McCatty.
This time, Strasburg strayed to talk with plate umpire Tom Hallion following the first inning after a few close pitches were called balls. In the second, Strasburg gave up consecutive doubles to Flores and Kevin Plawecki and glared at catcher Wilson Ramos.
Ramos briefly went to the mound, and zipped the ball back to Strasburg after a pitch. When Curtis Granderson hit an RBI single, Strasburg didn't back up the throw home.
Strasburg said he felt the Mets hitters were ''on the same page as me.''
''Maybe too predictable,'' he said.
McCatty visited the mound, and they sat next to each other in the dugout when the inning was over. Strasburg flipped his hand a time or two, apparently miffed.
But when Strasburg came out for the third inning, he was a completely different pitcher. He wound up retiring 10 straight before getting pulled after his 100th pitch as the Mets threatened in the sixth. Ramos gave Strasburg a solid pat as he left.
''More strikes,'' Mets manager Terry Collins said. ''You look up and he had 50 pitches through two innings and then he ends up going out there and started pounding the zone with his stuff. He's got plus stuff.
''That's one of the biggest differences I saw. He got ahead of us instead of us getting ahead of him,'' he said.
Strasburg gave up two runs and six hits in 5 1-3 innings, striking out seven.
Jacob deGrom (2-3) was perfect through three innings. He issued a leadoff walk in the fourth and Yunel Escobar followed with a routine double-play grounder, but Flores fumbled it for his sixth error this year.
Jayson Werth's single, Ryan Zimmerman's sacrifice fly and Ramos' RBI grounder put Washington ahead. Harper's double in the sixth set up RBI singles by Zimmerman and Ramos.
DeGrom allowed five hits and three earned runs in 5 1-3 innings.
Harper has reached base in a career-best 16 straight games.
Nats center fielder Denard Span, on the disabled list earlier this year, left in the sixth. Williams said Span would probably get a day off because of general soreness after an active week in which got five hits in game, homered a couple of times and, he added with a smile, was ''rushing for 1,000 yards.''
Washington reliever Sammy Solis made his big league debut, pitching two scoreless innings. The 26-year-old had never pitched above Double-A.
Nationals: INF Anthony Rendon (left knee) had a full workout in the minors after missing several games because of tightness in his side. If he's OK, he's expected to play five innings for Double-A Harrisburg on Friday, Williams said.
Mets: 3B David Wright, out since April 15 with a strained right hamstring, is ''making progress,'' Collins said. There's no timetable for him rejoining the team.
An ace matchup Friday night when RHP Max Scherzer (1-2, 1.26 ERA) returns to the Washington rotation to face RHP Matt Harvey (4-0, 3.04). Scherzer missed his last scheduled start after jamming his right thumb while batting. ''I hope that thumb bothers him a little bit,'' Collins kidded.
GOAL TO GO
With a big sports weekend on tap - NFL draft, Kentucky Derby, the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao fight, NBA playoffs and more, what would be the No. 1 event for a fan to attend? None of those, Harper said. ''I'd take Wild at Blackhawks. I love the NHL playoff atmosphere, and I really like how Patrick Kane plays,'' he said. Harper is giving hockey support to Washington, too. He's set to attend Game 4 of the Rangers-Capitals series next Wednesday night, after the Nats host Miami in the afternoon.