WASHINGTON - For the first time in his career, Jacob deGrom wore a big-league uniform on Opening Day. And the reigning National League Rookie of the Year hoped to take advantage.
After watching veteran Bartolo Colon hold down the Nationals, deGrom came away with a template for his own season debut.
"That is always my game plan," deGrom said this week. "Throw strikes and keep it down."
For the most part, deGrom followed the plan Wednesday night, though it was his offense that failed to follow through in a 2-1 loss to the Nationals.
DeGrom held the Nationals to two runs in six innings. He scattered six hits, struck out six and walked just two.
But Nationals counterpart Jordan Zimmermann proved stingier, allowing one run in six innings.
Travis d'Arnaud lined an RBI single to score Daniel Murphy in the second.
But Zimmermann outdueled deGrom, who looked untouchable for much of the spring. In 26 innings, he issued just four walks. He pitched to a sparkling 2.08 ERA, though it almost didn't do him justice.
Wednesday night, deGrom displayed outstanding stuff, though he lacked his usual command.
The first blatant lapse came in the first inning. With two outs, Yunel Escobar on first and Ryan Zimmerman up, deGrom fired a 94-mph fastball toward the inner edge of the plate.
The pitch needed to buzz Zimmerman's hands. Instead, it caught enough plate for Zimmerman to meet it with the barrel of his bat., DeGrom turned briefly, though he already knew. Zimmerman's two-run shot landed well over the leftfield fence.
While deGrom forged ahead, the Nationals forced him to work. He kept them off the scoreboard, but the extra pitches added up.
DeGrom began the sixth inning at 82 pitches, near the end of the line with the Mets planning to take a conservative approach with their young starters early in the season.
Over his right shoulder, in the bullpen, Rafael Montero readied himself to enter in relief. Things only got worse when Wilson Ramos started the inning with a booming double.
But with his meter running -- his pitch count approached 90 -- deGrom looked workmanlike in getting out of the jam. He struck out Ian Desmond, got Dan Uggla to pop up and got Tyler Moore to ground out.
With that, deGrom walked off the field, the first start of his sophomore season in the books. It might have been a win with a little more help. And perhaps, some luck.
The Mets squandered their bases-loaded chance in the second when Curtis Granderson took a called strike three on a pitch that appeared high and off the plate.
Lucas Duda hit three screaming liners. But the first one ended up in Uggla's mitt at second. The second hit the wall in rightfield but bounced to Bryce Harper, giving Duda a 325-foot single.
The third might have been most crushing. With one out in the eighth, David Wright lined a single to right ahead of Duda. The slugger smoked a liner right back at Nationals reliever Blake Treinen, who tossed to first for an easy double play.