Chris Young of the Mets throws a pitch against the...

Chris Young of the Mets throws a pitch against the Washington Nationals. (June 5, 2012) Credit: Getty Images

WASHINGTON -- It was a fitting return to the mound Tuesday for Chris Young, who a decade ago was a star college basketball player at Princeton. The big righthander pitched well in his first start since shoulder surgery, but as any good basketball player knows, the beginning of a game doesn't always factor in the outcome.

Young's day was long over when rookie Bryce Harper delivered an RBI single in the bottom of the 12th to give the Nationals a 7-6 victory over the Mets at Nationals Park.

"The team has so much character to fight back the way we did," Young said. "It just didn't go our way tonight."

Young, who was making his first start in 13 months, allowed three runs (two earned), six hits, two walks and struck out one in five innings of work.

Mets manager Terry Collins had said Young would be on a pitch count of 80-90 pitches. He threw 75.

"I was very encouraged," Collins said. "I thought he threw the ball very well. I was very happy for him. He was disappointed with some of the mistakes he made in the strike zone, but I thought he threw the ball great."

Young retired the first six batters he faced. Danny Espinosa reached on a bunt single to lead off the third, stole second and scored on Harper's two-out RBI single. Young struck out Harper with two on and one out in the bottom of the fifth, but Ryan Zimmerman singled home two runs, the second coming home on an error by Omar Quintanilla.

"That was a mistake," Young said. "The slider didn't bury like I needed it to. It's one of those things that hopefully I'll get better and get sharper with command. Other than that, I'm trying not to be too picky at this point, given the circumstances."

Young went 1-0 with a 1.88 ERA in four starts with the Mets in 2011. In 2007, he reached his only All-Star Game as a member of the San Diego Padres.

"I'm glad he's back," Collins said before Tuesday's game. "I'm glad that Sandy signed him. He's a first-class guy and I wanted to get him back. But I'm real surprised that a year and three weeks or whatever it is since the surgery that he's back pitching. It's really a credit to his work ethic and how he got himself ready. I'll tell you what: Johan's helped him. They've had lots of conversations about the ups and downs."

Young said his shoulder felt good and he expected it to feel the same in five days. Young had made a rehab start with Triple-A Buffalo, but said the majors is a different experience.

"You can rehab all you want but you can't prepare for these situations," Young said. "There's nothing like being out there. It was great."

Still, he would have preferred a different result.

"It's about winning games," Young said. "And I wish that I could have contributed to a win."

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