Class was in session for every pitcher in Citi Field yesterday.
Mets lefty Jon Niese sat front row, center, to learn from two of the best in the business of hurling baseballs past opposing hitters.
“You appreciate it,” Niese said after watching Johan Santana and Stephen Strasburg engage in a pitching duel yesterday afternoon.
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Santana took the loss in what would eventually be a 4-0 win for the Nationals at Citi Field. Strasburg earned his first win of the season.
“They’re two great pitchers and it’s fun to watch them both,” Niese said. “You definitely learn from them. You learn how they attack hitters.”
Attack is the appropriate verb as Santana and Strasburg took turns in an unspoken game of “Can you top this?” Santana struck out eight in five innings. His counterpart finished with nine punchouts in six innings.
“I like a lot what I see,” Mets manager Terry Collins said of Santana. “I’ve been very happy with Johan. I like what we see.”
The Mets searched for words to adequately describe the 23-year-old Strasburg, whose upper-90s heat and mid-80s change-up caused them to flail away.
“He commands three pitches. He throws everything for strikes. He challenges [hitters],” Santana said of Strasburg. “He’s going to have [a lot] of games ahead of him and I’m pretty sure he’ll get better.”
“He’s good,” added Jason Bay.
The filthiest pitch Strasburg threw was the 3-2 inside curveball that froze Ike Davis for the second out in the first inning. Despite having runners on first and second, the strikeout effectively ended any consideration that the Mets might pose a threat. Bay grounded out to Ian Desmond to end the frame.
“He just throws a little harder and the ball breaks a little sharper,” Davis said. “He was pretty good.
“He made a good pitch. Tip your cap,” Davis said of the 3-2 curve. “He did his job right there. What are you going to do?”
Follow Mets beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.