NEW YORK — 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 April 30.
“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.”
(BEN WALKER, AP Baseball Writer)