This pitching matchup could have taken place seven months ago. Instead, it will happen Friday night when Stephen Strasburg and the Washington Nationals put their franchise-record eight-game road winning streak in this series on the line against impressive New York Mets right-hander Matt Harvey .
Strasburg was in line to pitch Sept. 12 in the final matchup with the Mets last season, but the Nationals made the controversial move of shutting down their ace, who was in his first full season following Tommy John surgery. Washington won its eighth straight at Citi Field that night behind starter John Lannan and Ryan Zimmerman , who hit a solo homer off Harvey in a 2-0 victory. Harvey, making his first start against Washington, struck out 10 in five-plus innings.
Harvey (3-0, 0.82 ERA) gets the ball after fanning nine in eight innings of a 4-2 victory at Minnesota on Saturday. He didn't give up a hit until Justin Morneau 's solo homer with two out in the seventh.
"I'm glad they've got another good young pitcher coming along that's showing a lot of promise," Nationals manager Davey Johnson, the Mets' manager from 1984-90, told the team's official website. " ... That's interesting, and I'll look forward to it when Friday comes."
Strasburg (1-2, 2.95) gets back to work after losing his second consecutive start, 3-1 to Atlanta on Saturday. The right-hander allowed two unearned runs in six innings after walking four and yielding six runs in his previous outing, a 6-3 loss at Cincinnati on April 7.
"I wanted to go out there and try to go deep in the ballgame, but unfortunately I threw a lot of pitches early (and finished with 112), so that kind of spoiled that," Strasburg said. "But at least I was able to go out and give six."
Strasburg was dominant in two starts at Citi Field last season, both wins.
Zimmerman, 24 for 71 (.338) with four homers and 13 RBIs against the Mets in 2012, left Wednesday's 6-1 victory at Miami with cramps in his left hamstring, but he should be available Friday.
There's no question the Mets (7-7) are happy about playing their first home game since April 7 after a trip that included three winter weather postponements. New York lost its third straight Thursday, 11-3, in a game that started at 28 degrees, tying a Colorado Rockies ' record for coldest home start."We're glad it's over and we know the weather's going to start changing soon, start getting baseball weather," manager Terry Collins said. "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."
A bigger concern might be the Mets' bullpen, which saw its ERA jump from 3.06 to 5.32 on the trip.
Wright hit .344 (22 for 64) with five homers and 10 RBIs last season against Washington (9-6), which won 14 of 18 matchups. The third baseman is 1 for 6 with four strikeouts versus Strasburg.
Nationals left fielder Bryce Harper , who's batting .364 with five homers and 11 RBIs, is 0 for 3 with two strikeouts against Harvey.
|April 16, 2013||Bryce Harper||Day-to-Day||Flu-like symptoms|
|April 16, 2013||Denard Span||Day-to-Day||Flu-like symptoms|
|April 14, 2013||Wilson Ramos||15-Day DL||Strained left hamstring|
|March 22, 2013||Christian Garcia||15-Day DL||Strained right forearm tendon|
|New York Mets|
|March 22, 2013||Jenrry Mejia||15-Day DL||Right elbow inflammation|
|March 22, 2013||Frank Francisco||15-Day DL||Right elbow inflammation|
|March 22, 2013||Shaun Marcum||15-Day DL||Neck strain|
|March 22, 2013||Johan Santana||60-Day DL||Left shoulder surgery - out for season|
NEW YORK (AP) -- Even before Matt Harvey escaped a bases-loaded, no-out jam to preserve a late lead, fans at Citi Field told Stephen Strasburg which pitcher they preferred.
"Harvey's better!" they chanted, over and over.
He was on this Friday night. Harvey outdid Strasburg in a marquee matchup of young aces, amping up while the crowd cheered his name and leading the New York Mets over the Washington Nationals 7-1.
"It was nice," Harvey said, "but we've got a long way to go."
Ike Davis and Lucas Duda each hit two home runs, providing an ample cushion for Harvey and the Mets to end their three-game skid.
Harvey and Strasburg paired off for the first time in their careers, with many projecting the celebrated 24-year-olds will duel far into the future. Harvey (4-0) was equal to the challenge and started out fast, striking out leadoff man Denard Span with 98 mph heat.
"I came out a little too pumped up," he said.
Davis and Duda hit solo home runs in the sixth - the first time Strasburg (1-3) ever had been tagged twice in an inning - for a 4-0 lead. The 26,675 fans at Citi Field broke into the "Harvey's better!" chants that bounced around the ballpark.
"There's going to be a lot of years you're going to talk about this guy," Mets manager Terry Collins said.
Davis added a two-run homer in the eighth and Duda hit a solo drive off Drew Storen .
Harvey gave up one run and four hits in seven innings, striking out seven. He's been so dominant, his ERA actually went up, from 0.82 to 0.93.
Strasburg allowed four runs, two unearned, and five hits in six innings. He fanned six, flinging fastballs in the upper 90s.
Strasburg played down any extra emphasis on opposing Harvey.
"It's funny, because you guys want to make a big deal out of all this, but every game's huge for me. I want to go out there and want to help this team and it doesn't matter who's facing us," he said.
As for Harvey, "he's got good stuff. He's pounding the strike zone. It's still early, obviously, a lot of our guys haven't really faced him that much," Strasburg said.
Harvey gave up just one hit through five innings, a sliced double by Strasburg, before running into his only jam in the seventh. A leadoff walk and singles by Ian Desmond and Chad Tracy made it 4-1, and a throwing error by second baseman Daniel Murphy loaded the bases with no outs.
Collins wasn't about to pull Harvey, even though the pitcher's spot was due up first in the bottom half of the inning.
"I knew I needed to make a pitch," he said.
Harvey showed composure far beyond his years, quickly getting ahead of Kurt Suzuki and then making him chase a slider for strike three. Pinch-hitter Roger Bernadina was next, and Harvey got him on a foul popout.
With the crowd chanting his name, Harvey ended the inning by retiring Span on a routine grounder. Harvey watched the play, pumped his fist and got a fist bump from catcher John Buck outside the dugout.
"He pitched great, but that's the mark of a true ace," Collins said. "Games like that can spread to great seasons."
Moments later, the crowd cheered again when the video board posted a message that the second Boston Marathon bombing suspect was in custody. That news prompted some fans to chant "U-S-A!"
Harvey and Strasburg each stand 6-foot-4, and their stature as right-handed flamethrowers loomed large as many around the majors touted this matchup.
With fog swirling around the top of the scoreboard at the start, the Mets took a 2-0 lead in the first. An error by shortstop Desmond set up Strasburg's wild pitch that scored a run, and Buck added a single for his 20th RBI this season.
Harvey grew up in Connecticut and recently said he'd heard about those crackling Friday nights in the 1980s when Mets phenom Dwight Gooden pitched at Shea Stadium. Doc was at Citi Field for this game and gave Nationals manager Davey Johnson - the Mets' skipper back then - a big hug behind the cage during batting practice.
"Good to be here," Gooden told a fan on his way toward the field. "Fun night."
Said Harvey: "When I was younger, I wanted to be that guy."
"For him to come out for one of my starts, it was kind of mind-boggling," he said.
NOTES: Nationals 3B Ryan Zimmerman didn't start because of tightness in his left hamstring. SS Danny Espinosa didn't start because of a bruised right forearm that has sidelined him since Sunday. Span returned to the lineup after missing two games because of an ill stomach. ... The Mets stopped an eight-game home losing streak to the Nats.