When the Nationals have struggled this season, their struggles have been significant. But when they catch a wave of momentum, as they did Monday night, the opposite is also true.
The offense crushed five home runs, Gio Gonzalez nearly threw a no-hitter and the Nationals cruised past the Mets, 9-0. They have won five of their past six series and are now seven games behind the Reds, who lost to the Cubs on Monday, in the National League Wild Card race.
But will it be too little, too late?
"I like the way our lineup's swinging the bat," manager Davey Johnson said Sunday. "We just need to continue. We can't afford to have any lapses. We've got to win them all."
Jordan Zimmermann will hope to deliver on that statement when he takes the mound Tuesday in search of his league-leading 17th win of the season. The right-hander missed the All-Star Game with a neck injury and has been inconsistent in the second half, though he has won two of his past three starts.
Mets right-hander Dillon Gee, meanwhile, has been a model of consistency all season long. Since May 30, he has a 2.40 ERA. In his last start against the division-leading Braves, he allowed one run on four hits over seven strong innings.
Gee has also had particular success against the Nationals. In five starts against them, he is 4-1 with a 2.16 ERA.
"Every team has that guy that does well against them," Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said after their last meeting Aug. 30. "[Gee] over his career has done really well against us. We've watched video, we've done things and we just can't figure him out. He's a big league pitcher for a reason."
Mets: Wright returns to New York
• Third baseman David Wright arrived in New York on Monday and will continue to rehab his strained right hamstring with the Mets. Manager Terry Collins said that Wright's running progression is on schedule.
"When we get to a stage where that's playable, then we'll certainly make sure he gets live batting practice that he needs before he gets back in the lineup," Collins said.
Wright expects to rejoin the Mets before the season ends. He plans to skip a Minor League rehab stint and play with the Mets immediately when he is cleared to participate in games.
• The Mets wanted to evaluate Wilmer Flores at second base, but they have not gotten the chance. Flores continues to deal with ankle injuries, while starting second baseman Daniel Murphy has been one of the team's hottest hitters over the past week.
"It would've been nice to have been able to see [Flores] at second base," Collins said, "but right now I wasn't going to take Murph out the way he's swinging anyway."
Nationals: Hits keep coming for Span
• It didn't take long for center fielder Denard Span to push his career-best hitting streak to 20 games on Monday night. He hit a home run to right field off Carlos Torres in his first at-bat.
Span is hitting .410 during the streak, but he has also shown a burst of power. He has now hit two homers in his past 20 games. All four of his home runs this season have come since the All-Star break.
"Not to take anything from conventional leadoff hitters, but I've never considered myself just a slap guy, or a singles guy," Span said last week. "I've always considered myself a guy that can drive the ball in the gaps and hit some home runs. I'm confident in my ability. I know what God has blessed me with. It's just a matter of putting it all together and just continuing to work."
• Bryce Harper is not expected to play Tuesday because of inflammation in his left hip. He has missed four of the team's past six games.
"All the tests, the MRI and all that didn't reveal any structural damage," Johnson said. "There is just some inflammation in there. If you take care of that, he is good to go."
• After twice landing on the disabled list with a hamstring strain, Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos has started 17 consecutive games, the longest streak by a catcher in Nationals history (2005-present).
• The Mets recalled Aaron Harang from Triple-A Las Vegas on Monday. Harang, who signed a Minor League contract Aug. 31, is expected to start for New York on Thursday.
Tom Schad is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.