PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- It was not so long ago that Stephen Strasburg was in Zack Wheeler's shoes, lighting up radar guns and drumming up interest throughout the Grapefruit League.
Old news? Not quite. But it was Wheeler who outshined Strasburg in the Mets' 5-3 win against the Nationals on Saturday at Tradition Field, firing two scoreless innings in his spring debut.
Strasburg lit up the radar gun early, opening his first start of the preseason with seven consecutive fastballs ranging from 94-96 miles per hour. But shortstop Ruben Tejada smacked Strasburg's seventh pitch over the left-center field wall for a two-run homer, giving the Mets an early lead.
"It's the first Spring Training game, the first game of the year for him facing live hitters wearing a different uniform. So there's going to be adrenaline. And that's all that was," said catcher Chris Snyder. "The stuff looked good. When his mechanics stayed solid, he looked great. I think that first inning went a little quick for him."
In his first start since the Nationals shut him down on an innings limit early last September, Strasburg gave up no other runs in two innings. He needed 31 pitches to escape the first, but rebounded with a 1-2-3 second.
"It felt pretty good, glad I was able to make an adjustment," Strasburg said. "A bit of a debacle in the first inning but it seems like that's just what happens for me every Spring Training. It's going to take a little while for me to get a little more comfortable, a little better rhythm out there. I was just glad I was able to get back feeling right in the second."
The Nationals responded with three runs off Mets starter Shaun Marcum in the second inning, two of them coming on a Snyder homer and the other on a Chris Marrero double. Marcum then gave way to Wheeler, who generated plenty of swings and misses while recording six quick outs. The rookie, who is unlikely to make the Mets' Opening Day roster, struck out two, walked one and allowed one hit.
The Mets tied the game on Jordany Valdespin's RBI single off Craig Stammen in the fourth, then added two more in the sixth, when Collin Cowgill hit a RBI double and scored with heads-up baserunning.
Nationals up next: The Nats head back to Viera, Fla., on Sunday for their Grapefruit League home opener against the visiting Marlins. Second baseman Danny Espinosa and catcher Kurt Suzuki will make their spring debuts, with Jordan Zimmermann on the mound. The right-hander, who won a career-best 12 games last season, has vowed to work on his changeup this spring.