There are two way to look at the Nats situation right now.
The optimist sees a team that has won 7 of 9 and made up 4 games on the division leading Mets. The pitching has looked stronger. The bullpen feels like it's working itself out. The offense has been a bit up and down but given the previous two sentences, "up and down" is enough to win more games then they lose. Ramos and Desmond are hitting and Bryce flashed again his team-carrying potential. They aren't where they want to be yet but they should be soon.
The pessimist sees a team that put itself so far out of the lead early that going 7-2 while the division leader goes 3-5 still has the team out 4 games. Strasburg might be hurt. ZNN still doesn't have his fastball (neither does Fister). The bullpen is still shaky. The offense has yet to find any consistency. Zimm still isn't hitting, may be hurt. Werth still isn't hitting, may be hurt. Rendon still isn't playing, is hurt. It could be a long slog to where they want to be.
I said it earlier this week but I think the most important piece of the puzzle is the starting pitching. I think that's fine. I don't worry too much about ZNN or Fister's velocity because pitching has never been just a challenge of who can throw the hardest. There is a certain top speed level (kind of around 90MPH) where it become very difficult to pitch but where Fister and ZNN are? You can still be effective, even good. A small drop in velocity doesn't really effect Fister's approach and ZNN appears to be successfully adjusting on the fly. So that means the Nats have four arms you can count on right now. The fifth? Well...
Strasburg's injury is concerning. It could be just a minor thing. He obviously was pitching through it and he hasn't gotten out of routine yet. Maybe he just misses a start or not even that. However, just because you can pitch through it or it doesn't hurt too bad doesn't mean there isn't a bigger issue behind it. And if it's a shoulder issue... there goes the season. The cascade effect from something like that would be doubly painful. Part of the reason the pen feels to be gelling is the use of Tanner Roark in more critical situations. If he has to stretch out and take Stras' place in the rotation the bullpen is thrown into complete flux again. If you decide to keep him in the pen, well they thought AJ Cole was their best option and you saw how that went. Either way a hole is created just when we thought the Nats might have everything covered after 30 games of guessing. Keep your eye on this.
The offense is going to be all over the place but if you were smart you knew that going in. It could be a very good offense if everyone was healthy but the Nats aren't a particularly healthy squad. So predicting health would be a big mistake. (In fact Span and Werth and Rendon (hell - and Yunel) were all hurt to start the year.) As injuries come and go and the normal streaks of an offense come into play there is going to be some real low times and some times when the offense looks championship caliber. You just have to accept it.
I come down them some what in between the optimist and pessimist (booooo me! too waffley!). I start on the pessimist's side. The Nats had a good 10ish game run, the Mets had a mediocre one. The Mets still have a firm lead. That's the problem with digging a hole. The Nats can't go 7-3 while the Mets go 3-5 and have that be that. The Nats would have to go 14-6 while the Mets go 6-10 to close the gap. That's a bigger thing to ask for. The Nats aren't that good. The Mets certainly aren't that bad. Closing the gap will take more than a week.
But will it be a long slog? It might but it doesn't have to be. That's up to timing. And really being out a series or so shouldn't feel that bad. As long as the Marlins and Braves kind of slip away I don't mind being 2-3 games out as far as the All-Star game. I think as long as you can keep yourself around that level you're always just one good week for you and one bad week for the other guy from being where you want to be. That'll happen at some point. The key is tempering your own performance and having the team you are chasing not get lucky and reel off another hot streak. The latter we can't do much about. We have to hope the Mets innate 85 win talent keeps that from happening again. The former, well the starting pitching should help avoid any really bad 10 game runs. Should - we've seen how that's a "should" in the first couple weeks. But "should" is better than "have no idea, let's hope really hard". Very few teams are "should". The Nats are.