- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 25, 2014

VIERA, Fla. (AP) - Stephen Strasburg pitched into the sixth inning in his final spring training tuneup and Bryce Harper hit a three-run homer as the Washington Nationals defeated the New York Mets 7-3 Tuesday.

Strasburg was touched for three runs, all in the third when Travis d’Arnaud homered and Eric Young Jr. had a two-run double. The Nationals right-hander struck out seven and walked two in 5 2-3 innings.

“I got some good work in,” Strasburg said. “I came into spring wanting to work on another pitch (his slider), work on my time out of the stretch and controlling the run game and I feel like I got a lot more comfortable with that as the spring went on.”

While working on holding runners close at first base was a big part of Strasburg’s spring, what batters should be more concerned about is his slider.

“It’s just a natural pitch that I think can really help my game,” Strasburg said. “Based on what guys were doing off me in years past, it’s kind of an equalizer.”

Mets starter Zack Wheeler lasted just 2 2-3 innings, allowing five runs on five hits, including Harper’s homer. Wheeler threw 73 pitches, 40 in the third inning alone before he was removed.

Ryan Zimmerman homered and drove in three runs and Denard Span had three hits for Washington.

Zimmerman homered off Mets closer Bobby Parnell in the eighth.

Harper appears to be full go after a pain-free spring, playing on his surgically repaired left leg.

“My knee feels great. That’s all I really cared about,” Harper said. “The swing’s going to be there, I know that. My outfield stuff’s going to be there. My arm’s going to be there. I’m just excited that I have no pain. I’m excited to go into the season.”


Mets: Wheeler was asked if he was being careful not to reveal too much of his game plan against a division rival.

“Honestly, I wasn’t really that cautious,” Wheeler said. “It was just my fastball . I was just pulling off a little bit at the end. My off-speed was good. I was finishing through the pitch. Just a bad day. It’s going to happen. It’s good to get it out of the way in spring training.”

Because his next start won’t be until next Thursday, Wheeler said he would throw two “small bullpens” between now and then to stay fresh.


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