– Matt Harvey knows how to make a return.

Pitching in a game for the first time in more than 19 months, the Mets ace threw six scoreless innings Thursday afternoon in a 6-3 victory over the Nationals at Nationals Park. He struck out nine and allowed four hits.

All the tedious rehab Harvey endured and the hard work he put in spanning the 17-plus months since the surgery led to this day, and he took the mound looking to pitch the Mets to a rare series victory against Washington. The Nationals had won seven straight series against the Mets.

While Washington possesses perhaps the best rotation in baseball, the Mets believe they have the arms to compete with them, and part of that confidence stems from having Harvey back in the fold. When Harvey takes the mound, the Mets know they have that legit ace who can shut down an opponent, just like did Thursday afternoon.

"We have a chance to leave here with two wins and one loss, which is the level of where we're at right now, and if you have one guy on the mound you think can accomplish that, it's Matt Harvey," Mets manager Terry Collins said before the game. "So we're excited that he's back out there, we're extremely excited that this is the start of hopefully a healthy, long, 190-inning season. But right now we just have to get through today."

Harvey needed just four pitches to announce his return, striking out Michael A. Taylor on a sharp, 83 mph curveball for his first out. Two batters later, he fanned Bryce Harper on 97 mph heat, and he struck out the right fielder with an upper 90s fastball in each of their three battles.

"I don't know if I could draw it up any better," Harvey said.