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Nats find out how other half lives in season opener

WASHINGTON -- Just before the whole thing came undone in a loss to the Mets on Monday afternoon, the Washington Nationals had played a game that could serve as a blueprint for everything the organization believes in.

That's appropriate for Opening Day, right? Send 'em a message, etc. Baseball people constantly remind us that the season is long and that it's about persevering and grinding and all that.

That said, Opening Day is different. It's symbolic of a new beginning, and maybe it does set a tone. Or at least a day or two of good karma.

Funny thing about Opening Days. Sometimes odd things happen. Routine plays wind up not looking so routine. Nothing comes easy.

And in that way, this Opening Day at Nationals Park delivered as the Mets rallied to defeat the Nationals, 3-1, in front of 42,295.

Video: NYM@WSH: Wright reaches second on Nats' errorNats shortstop Ian Desmond may go the next six months without making a pair of mistakes like the two he made on Monday. And Washington ace Max Scherzer may have missed with only one pitch the entire afternoon. He paid for it more than he should have.

Maybe setting a tone is more important to the Mets, who haven't been to the postseason since 2006. The Nationals? They've won more regular-season games than any team in baseball over the past three seasons. They've got power pitching stacked at every level of the organization, and there's pretty much no scenario in which they're not playing in October.

To the Nats, it's about playing deep into October.

Cue the winners.

"Look, this is a great win for us," Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said. "One win, but it was a big one. It's Opening Day. First impressions. Lot of talk from the Mets -- decent Spring Training, roll over on Opening Day. That's not a good storyline."

Video: NYM@WSH: Harper connects for a solo home runFor five innings, it was the Nationals at their best. Bryce Harper homered off Mets starter Bartolo Colon in the bottom of the fourth inning, and Scherzer was brilliant in his first start for his new team.

Scherzer sailed into the sixth inning with a no-hitter and had retired 17 Mets in a row when Curtis Granderson drew a two-out walk. That's when it got weird. Mets third baseman David Wright popped a ball into shallow right field.

No problem. Nats second baseman Dan Uggla called for it and was waiting for it. And then Desmond called for it. Uggla backed off. The ball fell in.

"I wasn't really confident anyone else was going to get it," Desmond said.

Desmond was given an error on the play, preserving the no-hitter. But it ended moments later when Scherzer threw Mets first baseman Lucas Duda "my best fastball of the day."

Video: NYM@WSH: Duda brings home two with Mets' first hitDuda lined it to right field for a single that scored Granderson and Wright with a 2-1 Mets lead. An inning later, another Desmond error put Mets center fielder Juan Lagares on first.

Scherzer then "hung a slider" to Travis d'Arnaud, who hit it to deep center for a triple and a 3-1 lead. And to think, it was all going swimmingly for Washington a few minutes before. Scherzer and Harper were going to be the stars.

"The storyline was written," Desmond said. "We botched it."

Instead, Colon became the story. He began his 18th big league season by looking a very young 41, allowing one run in six innings. Afterward, the Nationals saluted Colon for his ability to change speeds, throw strikes and work fast.

Video: NYM@WSH: Colon strikes out eight, allows one run"He's pretty good," Desmond said. "He's a pro. He uses all his stuff. He's around the plate. He's down in the zone. He's up in the zone. Seems like he may or may not have a new pitch."

Mets manager Terry Collins used four relievers for the final nine outs. When his closer Jenrry Mejia complained of a sore elbow while warming up, Collins turned to journeyman Buddy Carlyle for the save.

The Mets have vowed that this season is going to be different, that they've got a team capable of going to the postseason and that there are no excuses for falling short.

They may look back and see this improbable day as an omen of all the good things to come. The Nats have won so often the past three seasons that they've learned to plow through these ups and downs.

"We're going to have plenty of chances," Desmond said. "I'm going to have plenty of chances ... but it'll be all right."

Richard Justice is a columnist for Read his blog, Justice4U.
Read More: Washington Nationals, Ian Desmond, Max Scherzer, Bryce Harper