Honestly, if you want to panic now that's fine. The "don't panic yet" statement is based off the idea that you, like me, thought the Nats were about 10 games better than the Mets and you haven't radically altered your expectations. We talked about it the other day but with new information (the terrible start for the Nats, the great one for the Mets) you have to re-evaluate. If you now view their talent level as being closer then 10 games plus then an 8 game lead at this point may very well be panic time.
Why panic with 142 games left? Because the cushion is gone to catch the Mets based on your current beliefs. We're closing in (or maybe passed - but I always suggest conservative changes) on everyone's personal midpoint, the point where if both teams play at expectations that the Nats take the East. It seems silly that we're here this early (12% into the season) in the season but that's what can happen if you play like the worst team in baseball and the team you are trying to catch plays like the best.
If I'm the Nats what do I do? First I make this the best team I can make it without deals - Uggla is gone, Reed Johnson is gone. Taylor is back as 4th OF giving Span and Werth the rest they seem like they need. I probably bring up Tony Renda too. Difo is better but only in High-A, he really does need more minor league at bats. Renda almost certainly can't hack it but he's reliable at 2nd and a contact hitter and frankly is only here until Rendon gets back.
Then I decide whether Roark is my long man or a short inning guy. If he's the long man use him as such 2+ innings each time out, might be 6th and 7th in a close game, might be mop up in a laugher. If he's the short inning guy - he's Matt's 8th. Matt needs structure - Blake Treinen, Aaron Barrett, Rafeal Martin each have failed to show they are ready. Don't force it. Matt Thorton is the 7th inning guy. If Roark is long guy then Thorton is 8th and you have to rotate through these other guys in 7th. But say "this is the 7th inning guy" to Matt and let him ride it for a week or two.
Lineup wise just bat Harper second. I know you want him to get RBI chances but this team doesn't get on base and he hasn't driven them in, so just get him as many at bats as you can.
That's what I do.
Also I do break down the season now into smaller chunks. Right now - win the next two games. That's it. Don't think about catching anyone. You have