NEW YORK -- Hours after bowing out of next week's All-Star Game, Stephen Strasburg climbed atop the Citi Field mound and, for seven innings, pitched like an All-Star regardless. Strasburg held the Mets to one run in a 3-1 Nationals victory, improving to 12-0 and extending his hitless streak to 10 2/3 innings before Asdrubal Cabrera snapped it with a homer in the fifth.
Strasburg became the first National League pitcher to open a season 12-0 since Rube Marquard in 1912.
"He has been lights-out all season," Nationals first baseman Clint Robinson said.
The defeat was painful enough for a New York club that dropped back to four games behind the Nationals in the NL East. But it was merely one small part of a miserable day for the Mets, who lost a pair of All-Stars -- Noah Syndergaard and Yoenis Cespedes -- to injury, and also learned that Matt Harvey will undergo season-ending surgery.
"I guess it's part of the game," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "I've never had it in such mass before to where it's every day, it's hard to walk in this room because the conversation is about who got hurt tonight. I'm a little tired of talking about it. It's my job to talk about it. But I'm running out of things to say, and we're running out of bodies."
With that as their backdrop, the Mets never led against Strasburg, falling behind for good on Robinson's two-run homer in the second inning. Syndergaard also gave up a Daniel Murphy RBI double before departing in the fifth inning with what the Mets called "arm fatigue."
Despite also losing Cespedes to a right quad strain, the Mets did put the tying runs on base with no outs in the eighth. But Curtis Granderson popped up on a 3-1 pitch and Cespedes' replacement, Juan Lagares, hit into an inning-ending double play. Jonathan Papelbon then locked down the ninth for his 18th save.
"We really needed it," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "The Mets, they don't give up. They were threatening and we ended the threat."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Historic Strasburg: Since coming off the disabled list on Sunday, Strasburg has pitched 13 2/3 innings, allowing one run on two hits with 14 strikeouts. Current teammate Max Scherzer -- then with the Tigers -- is the only other starter to open a year 12-0 in the past 30 seasons in either league; he went 13-0 in 2013.
"The DL stint wasn't something that was impacting my throwing arm. It wasn't a big process to try to get back into things," Strasburg said. "I think my arm felt good after [the pain in my back subsided]. I was able to throw in between and maintain what I've been working on." More >
Injuries pile up: When Syndergaard's velocity dipped into the low 90s in the top of the fifth inning, Mets trainer Brian Chicklo and Collins wasted no time trotting out to the mound. Moments later, Syndergaard was walking off of it. Cespedes left after three innings with a strained right quad. More >
"It's something that we can't control," Cespedes said. "It's part of the game. All we can do is just continue to play hard." More >
The substitute: Filling in for Ryan Zimmerman, who is on the disabled list, Robinson gave Strasburg all the support he needed with a two-run homer off Syndergaard in the second. It was his second home run in as many games.
"That's a big game we needed to win," Robinson said. "Syndergaard is a great pitcher. It was important to get a lead for Stras."
Cabrera goes deep: Cabrera's knack for recording the first hit off opposing pitchers served him well in the fifth inning, when he led off with a homer to snap Strasburg's streak at 10 2/3 hitless innings. Because baseball is just that sort of game, Brandon Nimmo quickly made it back-to-back hits off Strasburg with a single, though he did not advance past first base.
"Walks, plays and stuff don't bother him. Before, I had heard a walk in the wrong situation, whatever it is, might bother him. Like I said, he has really matured. He is unemotional on the mound and off the mound. But he has the burning desire to succeed in his heart. You can tell by the way he goes about his business." -- Baker, on Strasburg
"Nobody in baseball feels sorry for us. So we'll just have to suck it up." -- Collins, on the Mets' injuries
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
In the fourth inning, Robinson led off with a walk and then appeared to advance to second base on a wild pitch. But Collins believed that catcher Rene Rivera's throw had beaten Robinson to second. The Mets challenged and, after a review, the call was overturned and Robinson was out.
"I think [Neil Walker] got the tag on me before I got to the bag," Robinson said. "From what I saw on the replay, I thought he beat me. Neil said he couldn't tell. I couldn't tell either. That's replay. That's how it goes. I'm glad they have it."
WHAT'S NEXT Nationals: A day after learning he will replace Strasburg on the All-Star team, Scherzer will make his final first-half start against the Mets on Saturday at 7:15 p.m. ET. He has a 2.03 ERA in 10 career outings against the Mets, and has allowed New York only two runs in 13 2/3 innings this season.
Mets: With Harvey set to undergo season-ending surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome, right-hander Logan Verrett will join the rotation in place of him at Citi Field. This will be Verrett's sixth start of the season, but his first that's not a spot start; a strong showing against the Nationals would give the Mets more confidence in continuing to use him every five days.