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Mets make a great first impression by beating their nemesis, the Nationals

New York Mets relief pitcher Buddy Carlyle, left,

New York Mets relief pitcher Buddy Carlyle, left, celebrates with catcher Travis d'Arnaud after earning a save in a 3-1 Opening Day victory over the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on Monday, April 6, 2015, in Washington. Credit: AP / Evan Vucci

WASHINGTON - A year ago, the Nationals made the Mets a convenient doormat, cleaning their cleats on their division rivals while racing toward a division title.

"These guys had our number last year -- easily had our number," catcher Travis d'Arnaud said. "So today, we all knew that going into the game. We all wanted to get the season started the right way."

Now the Mets can say they've accomplished at least that much, scoring a 3-1 victory on Monday to spoil Opening Day for their constant tormentors.

The Mets want more, of course. But to reach their ultimate goal of returning to the playoffs, they must do better than the 4-15 mark they posted against the Nationals a season ago.

For one day, they looked ready to make the quantum leap. Nationals starter Max Scherzer took a no-hitter into the sixth and the Mets were forced to protect a lead without closer Jenrry Mejia and his suddenly sore right elbow.

No matter. Bartolo Colon allowed one run -- on a home run by Bryce Harper -- in six strong innings and the Mets turned a pair of errors by Ian Desmond into three unearned runs.

Lucas Duda ripped a two-run single on a 1-and-2 pitch with two outs in the sixth to ruin the no-hitter and the shutout, giving his team a 2-1 lead. His chance came after Desmond called off Dan Uggla and then muffed what should have been an inning-ending pop-up by David Wright, who hustled to second base while Curtis Granderson went first to third.

In the seventh, d'Arnaud's one-out triple off the centerfield wall drove in Juan Lagares, who reached when Desmond buried a throw in the dirt.

"You just can't keep giving good teams outs," manager Terry Collins said. "And we think we're a good team, so we got extra outs."

On a perfect spring afternoon, the Nationals had hoped to score two victories. They already had officially announced that they will host the 2018 All-Star Game, and they sent Scherzer to the mound before a sellout crowd of 42,295.

By the sixth, the Nationals' new $210-million arm had not allowed a hit. Between a leadoff walk to Granderson in the first inning and a walk to Granderson with two outs in the sixth, Scherzer retired 17 straight batters.

But Colon, 41, proved to be every bit Scherzer's equal. "Bart matched him pitch for pitch," Wright said.

Aside from a sinker that didn't sink -- one that Harper turned into his homer for a 1-0 lead in the fourth -- Colon flashed near total command of his repertoire.

For all the hand-wringing about Colon getting the Opening Day assignment, few seemed better suited for the job. The oldest Opening Day starter in Mets history worked like a metronome, peppering the strike zone with fastballs that he ramped up to 92 mph.

He struck out eight, walked one and allowed three hits.

"It's a great team and they're missing three big parts of the lineup," Colon said through a translator. "You've got to take advantage of that."

With Anthony Rendon, Denard Span and Jayson Werth sidelined by injuries, Colon did just that. The bullpen took care of the rest.

Carlos Torres pitched a 1-2-3 seventh and setup man Jeurys Familia, who had a shaky spring training, dominated the Nationals in the eighth.

In the ninth, though, the Mets endured what could be their first dose of adversity of the season.

Mejia had trouble getting loose in the bullpen and later complained of stiffness in his elbow. That forced Collins to improvise.

Lefty specialist Jerry Blevins got Harper to line out to right for the first out. Buddy Carlyle then took over and got Ryan Zimmerman and Wilson Ramos to hit harmless grounders to end it.

Carlyle, 37, who debuted in 1999, celebrated his first big-league save by bear-hugging d'Arnaud. With that, the Mets knocked off a familiar demon.

"We didn't play well against the Nationals last year," general manager Sandy Alderson said before the game. "We had a very poor record. And we need to go about changing that. You don't do it other than performing and succeeding on the field."

On Opening Day, the Mets did both.

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