This is the intense final moments of your favorite horror movie. This is the scene where the last survivor makes it back to their car then struggles to find the keys just as the zombie/alien/serial killer/demon/redneck zombie torture family catches up to them. All that tension that was let go from the false denouement is back, but now even more intense and because sometimes in these types of movies the good guy doesn't get away doubt creeps in. One moment they were safe, breathing out, about to be one their way back to their family. Then suddenly the bad guy re-emerges and the climax resumes.
That is where the Nats are. They are stumbling through the brambles as a horde of evil chases them, nipping at their heels. When the Braves went into Atlanta for a three game series they had a chance to put them away, but the Braves swept the Nationals and turned an 8.5 game deficit into a 5.5 game one, and since that time the Nats have played perfect .500 baseball. Alternating wins and loses while the Braves have continued to just win. Overall though the Braves have only gained 1.5 games on the Nationals. It has taken the Braves just over a week to gain a game and a half. At that rate the Braves would need the season to be extended by an additional two weeks.
It isn't going to happen. With eight games remaining the Nats goals should be the same as always. Go .500 on the road and win at home. If they can do that on this road trip and win three of their next five games and then come home and win two against the Phillies then that wraps up the division. It is a little later than anyone would like, but it still happens. Panicking now and worrying too much about the Braves and not concentrating on the actions that can be controlled is how the Nats could get themselves in trouble.
They won't do that though. With Davey Johnson at the helm the Nats have been one of the calmest and most collected teams in baseball. They have suffered through injuries and losing streaks before. Johnson will keep the focus of the team where it belongs, and while the Braves are making that one last snatch at the Nats, and while they are not getting away as cleanly as it looked like they would, they will still get away. And once the play-offs begin it is an entirely different game. A game where the hottest team wins, and with the Nats treading water right now it is starting to look like things might be lining up for them.