WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — Now that’s how you return from Tommy John surgery.

Matt Harvey impressed everyone in his first start in nearly 20 months, from his Mets teammates to fans to the rival Nationals who just couldn’t figure out New York’s ace on Thursday afternoon.

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Dynamic right from the 96-mph called strike he began with, Harvey struck out nine across six scoreless innings to outpitch Stephen Strasburg in the Mets’ 6-3 victory. He powered fastballs and mixed in sharp breaking balls, and Washington manager Matt Williams praised his “feel.”

“I’ve said it a million times: He’s going to be Cy Young one day, and everybody knows that,” said Bryce Harper, who struck out three times against Harvey, each time whiffing on high heat.

Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond’s appraisal: “Pretty much the same old stuff.”

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Harvey hadn’t appeared in a regular-season game since allowing a career-high 13 hits against Detroit on Aug. 24, 2013; the ligament-replacement operation on his right elbow came that October.

Harvey said he came to the ballpark with a new perspective that “it can all be taken away pretty quickly.” So he just enjoyed the day and let it fly.

“He’s such an impressive guy to be around, period,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “Nothing he does surprises you.”

Harvey (1-0) gave up four hits and one walk, throwing 63 of 91 pitches for strikes.

“When you’ve got a No. 1 guy that you can run out there and you know that, hey, we give him two to three runs a game and he’s going to win 20 games — we got that animal,” Collins said. “He’s going to change the dynamic of what our club is all about.”

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