For the first time since June 20th, the Washington Nationals woke up this morning and checked their iPads, laptops, phones, the local paper or wherever they look if they did and saw that they were no longer in the first place in the NL East.
Obviously, they knew it last night when they dropped their seventh in the last ten and the NL East's first-place New York Mets won for the seventh time in their last ten, crushing the Miami Marlins, 12-1.
After the Nationals dropped three straight to the Mets this weekend in Citi Field, Nats' skipper Matt Williams was asked if he viewed the series as a lost opportunity?
"Lost opportunity ... I don't look at it that way," Williams told reporters, including MASNSports.com's Chris Johnson.
"We're now in position to move forward for the last 60-ish games and see what we can do.
"We start tomorrow. We start with our homestand and getting back on our home turf and starting to win ballgames. It starts tomorrow. That's as far ahead as we look."
It was more of the same on Monday, however, with the Nationals' offense held scoreless through eight before they were able to rally for four runs against Arizona Diamondbacks' reliever Daniel Hudson.
It was too little, too late, of course, after Nats' starter gave up five runs and the D-Backs added on a home run off new Nats' closer Jonathan Papelbon, who was in for some work late with the Nationals down by five.
Williams was asked again after the 6-4 loss about falling into second place, 1.0 game behind the Mets.
It's August, and the Mets are ahead of the Nationals. How did we get here? http://t.co/Sc7aDp3DJW pic.twitter.com/ewhLXIzw0q— SB Nation MLB (@SBNationMLB) August 4, 2015
"It can all change tomorrow," the second-year skipper told reporters.
"It's about tomorrow's game, and 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."
"That's not good," last night's starter Doug Fister said, after giving up three home runs and five runs total in the loss that left the Nationals in second place.
"But it's not the end of the season. We've still got quite a bit of time left, and we've got to go out here every day and make sure that we get our business done."
No one is scoreboard watching at this point, or looking at the standings yet (except Mets fans), as Bryce Harper explained, as quoted by NatsInsider.com's Mark Zuckerman, in his blunt assessment of the situation the Nationals find themselves in right now:
"We’ve just really gotta try to stay within our team," Harper said. "I don’t really give a crap about what the Mets are doing, or the Dodgers, the Giants or Texas or anybody. I could really care less. I know what type of team we are, our capability of going into every single game and having the confidence to win ballgames. Playing guys like [Arizona] that has a losing record, we’ve got to win these ballgames. We’ve got to scratch and fight and claw just try to win these games. Hopefully we can do that the rest of the time we’re here."
Keith Olbermann is probably putting together another grammar lesson for Harper right now, but Harper's point is clear. The Nationals can only control what they can control. The rest is out of their hands.
They had a chance against the Mets this weekend to put some real distance between themselves and their top rivals for the NL East crown and came up empty, then dropped one to a D-Backs team that came to the nation's capital on a roll with wins in six of the last eight, seven of the last ten and eight of the last thirteen.
It's not too late to turn things around, obviously, and as Matt Williams said, it can all start tonight... with Max Scherzer on the mound against the D-Backs. Can the offense support their ace though?
The Nationals’ offense (and their winning percentage) has been in a free fall since the start of July pic.twitter.com/CWioSR71sI— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 4, 2015