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Nationals wrap up 3-4 homestand, head out on 10-game trip: Don't look back

The Washington Nationals missed an opportunity to cut into the New York Mets' lead in the division on Sunday afternoon, and now they head out on a long road trip to Los Angeles, San Francisco and Colorado.

Rafael Suanes-USA TODAY Sports

The sweep in Washington's three-game series in New York's Citi Field last weekend left the Nationals tied with the Mets atop the NL East, but the Nats' loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday night in D.C., and the Mets' win over the Miami Marlins, left the defending division champs 1.0 game back.

"It can all change tomorrow," Matt Williams told reporters after the Nationals fell into second place for the first time since June 19th.

"It's about tomorrow's game," Williams said.

"It's about tomorrow's game. We can be back where we want to be tomorrow. So we'll have to play well." -Matt Williams on the Nationals falling out of first place

"We can be back where we want to be tomorrow. So we'll have to play well. We'll have to beat those guys in the other dugout, but at this point it feels like second place. That's where we're at, so we try to get back to where we want to be starting tomorrow."

The Nationals beat the D-Backs on Tuesday night, but the Mets beat the Fish again to stay 1.0 game up.

Washington's 11-4 loss on Wednesday and NY's sixth straight win gave the Mets a 2.0-game lead.

Williams told reporters that night that he planned on having a conversation with his team.

"I think that we'll have a conversation tomorrow about where we want to go and what we want to do and then we'll go from there," he said.

Williams was asked if a loss like Wednesday's, which saw the D-Backs rally from a 2-1 deficit with a four-run sixth, before adding six more runs, could galvanize the Nationals?

"Can it galvanize? We hope so," the second-year skipper said. "That will be the message tomorrow for sure. We've got a limited number of games left and we've got to play well if we want to go where we want to go. And that includes everybody, so we feel good about the guy going for us tomorrow, [Joe Ross], and we'll see if we can get that one to start it."

The Nationals cut the Mets' lead to 1.5 games with Thursday's win over Arizona while New York had the night off, but the Nats blew a 4-1 lead in the eighth on Friday when Rockies' slugger Carlos Gonzalez hit a go-ahead, eighth-inning grand slam off set-up man Drew Storen.

"We're in a spot where we're in this thing and we have to be prepared for that, so to look back on things does you no good." -Matt Williams after the Nationals' 3-4 homestand

"We had the lead," Williams said. "Had it set up for our bullpen the way we want to have it set up and the guy that we want in there in the eighth inning for sure. It didn't go our way tonight, but we have to be ready for tomorrow."

The Mets beat the Tampa Bay Rays that night, so their lead in the division was up to 2.5 games, but the Nationals' manager said it was all about remaining focused on the task at hand when he was asked if the events of the last week were having an effect?

"We don't look at it," he said. "We look at tomorrow.

"Happy to have [Stephen Strasburg] back in the rotation. He's feeling good, so he's got the ability to go out and shut anybody down on any given day, so we hope for that and we'll prepare and see if we can get them tomorrow."

Strasburg did shut the Rockies down on Saturday, the Nationals did get the win, and the Mets lost to the Rays, so the Nats gained some ground, pulling to within 1.5 games back.

In the finale of Colorado's three-game set in D.C. yesterday, the Nationals jumped out to an early lead, and were tied at 4-4 after seven innings when Storen struggled again and the Rockies broke things open with a two-run rally in what ended up a 6-4 win.

The loss left the Nationals 3-4 on the seven-game homestand. Had they been able to win the third of three with the Rockies, they would be .5 game back, since the Mets dropped their second in a row to the Rays on Sunday, but things didn't work out.

Williams was asked after the loss how disappointing the results of the homestand were, especially considering that the Nationals now head out on a difficult road trip that will see them play ten games in eleven days as they travel to Los Angeles, San Francisco and Colorado?

"We don't think about that," he said. "It's tomorrow. We have to play the Dodgers tomorrow. So, again, we're in a spot where we're in this thing and we have to be prepared for that, so to look back on things does you no good. You look forward to tomorrow."

But if you don't look back, a reporter asked, "How do you get better?" If you don't evaluate what went wrong, how do you avoid having it happen again?

"There are times when looking ahead isn't the only thing you could look at, I would think?" Williams was asked.

"That's what you would think," he said. "What I would think as the manager of this club is that we must play tomorrow. And if we don't win tomorrow, or have the plan to win tomorrow, what the hell are we doing here? That's what I think. So for me, it is in the past. There's nothing we can do about it right now. Of course we want to get better. Of course we want to win games, and what we do right now is jump on that plane with a good attitude and go get the Dodgers and see what we can do. What else -- what other choice do we have? Pretty much none. So we'll go do that."