Nats lose. It was an interesting game. Let's walk through the pivotal moments.
Scherzer, for the 25th game in a row, didn't have his best stuff. He kept leaving the ball up and got pounded for it. However the Mets couldn't get anyone on base so the game remained close despite the three bombs and in the 4th John "He's good too!" Niese proved that he's probably peaked as a pitcher and blew up. After a couple of singles, he walks Desmond (always a bad sign) then gets hammered by noted Met-killer Wilson Ramos. After Taylor singles and Scherzer bunts him over you have your first potential managin' moment. Collins left in Niese to face Werth. I probably would have tried it too, down only 1 run and in the bottom of the 4th, but I can see why you'd pull him too.
Werth doubles. Now here's a clearer "managin'" moment as Collins brings Carlos Torres in and double switches Kelly Johnson (who homered) out. The idea was right. The Nats had taken momentum and would fully have control if they could keep the Mets from scoring in the next half-inning. Scherzer might even start cruising staked to a lead. However the pitcher was due up. So a double switch makes sense... except why not bring in a better one inning reliever (rather than your long man) then pinch hit for him in the next inning? You have a better chance of getting out of the 4th with no more runs scored and you still get that bat in. I suppose this saves an arm to be used later but in September your bullpen should be chock full of arms. Anyway it works out because Torres does get out of the inning unscathed and the double switch works exactly as planned. Mets score and while the Nats have the lead they don't feel in control. Game is still up in the air.
Now we get Matt's first and maybe only "managin'" moment. The Nats get a couple of guys on and with two outs the pitcher spot is due up. Scherzer could potentially have two more innings in him and if you think he could give you two more scoreless innings you might let him bat here. But he's given up a run in 3 of 5 innings and has been hit rather hard all game. Chances are pretty good he'll get into trouble and have to be pulled before the 7th is over. So you should just go ahead and pull him now. Yes, the bullpen is not good, but you can't assume failure. All you know is what you have in front of you and what you have is a struggling pitcher hanging onto a one-run lead and a chance to plate two more runs. But Matt lets Max hit. Max gets out. Max gives up a run in the Top of the 6th and Matt pulls him to start the 7th. (That would be his second "managin'" move - though a far lesser one - why pull him then?)
The pen chicanery that followed in the 7th? I don't really blame Matt for. He's trying to use what he's got and they are not coming through. Treinen couldn't get two outs. Rivero couldn't get one. Janssen couldn't get one. Thornton got his one and him facing Cespedes isn't a bad idea actually. Thornton doesn't have big splits versus RHB and Cespedes, for whatever reason, doesn't hit LHP all that well. It was actually a pretty smart call. A smarter call though would have been probably pitching around Cespedes and letting Thornton take on Conforto who does have a big issue with LHP but I'm not jumping on MW for that. Rafael Martin for the 8th (and then 9th) was a curious move, kind of a surrender flag wave, but he did fine and it keeps other arms fresh.
There were no more important moments as the rest of the game went pretty quietly. Matty has had a distinct lack of urgency and once again that lack of a killer instinct came back to haunt him. This time it was trying to get one inning too many from Max instead of trying to put the Mets away. These games are playoff games. You have to play them for the W today with no thought about tomorrow. Let's see what happens tonight.
All we know after one loss is that the demise of the Mets is not imminent. Or better said for Mets fans, that win makes it very unlikely the Mets won't be in it at the end of the year. They'll be at least three games up coming out of the series and even if they were to somehow start to stumble against bad competition, it would probably take the Nats two weeks or so to get into first. That'd be great fot the Nats but remember that H2H to end the year works both ways. Even if the Mets completely crash they can still hold out hope if THEY are within three of the Nats by year's end. I think now that's a very safe bet.
I don't think the Nats HAVE to take the next 2. If they win one of two they are where I'd thought they'd be before the Braves series. 5 games out fighting to make up 2 games of ground in 3 weeks. They do have to win 1 though because making up 4 in 3 weeks... I just don't see it. I mean it's possible but we're now talking about a comeback that will be talked about for years. They happen but... I don't see it.
We don't have to talk about the WC2 as I thought we might. The Cubs swept their weekend series.
What is wrong with Max? We'll look at it more after the series. Some say overwork, but I'm a pitch guy, not an inning guy and by pitches he was worked harder in 2013 and 14. I think it's a change in approach more than anything. He's walking far fewer batters in 2015 throwing more pitches in the zone to do that. When you do that you have to be better at locating them and he hasn't been. He's trying to hard not to miss out of the zone that he can only miss in the other direction - more in. Just a theory.