On Wednesday, the Mets essentially had Carlos Gomez and gave him back. On Thursday, they essentially had a win and gave that back.

Now -- on Friday, Saturday and Sunday -- they're hoping not to give back their chance to win the NL East title.

The Mets will follow what might have been the most bizarre 24 hours in franchise history with what could be considered their most important series in years as the first-place Nationals come to town for a three-game set beginning Friday night.

"[Wednesday] night obviously was a tough night for a lot of people involved. Today's a tough day,'' Terry Collins said Thursday after the Mets surrendered a six-run lead and fell to the Padres, 8-7.

"We've got the Nats coming in tomorrow,'' he added. "We better be ready for tomorrow and not dwell too long on this one because they're playing good.''

The Mets, who trail the Nationals by three games, will depend on their young arms to break their streak of strange occurrences. Matt Harvey will start Friday night, followed by Jacob deGrom on Saturday night and Noah Syndergaard on Sunday.

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Because Bartolo Colon lasted only 21/3 innings on Wednesday night, and the bullpen allowed seven runs Thursday, the Mets will need length from their starting pitchers.

"We've got to pitch and we've got to execute,'' Collins said. "Right now, our bullpen, with what happened last night and today, they're a little bit strained.''

The Mets' lineup might not be as strained for much longer. The non-waiver trade deadline is at 4 p.m. Friday and the Mets remain active. Catcher Travis d'Arnaud, who has been on the disabled list since June 20 with a sprained left elbow, also is expected to be in the lineup.

Yes, there have been injuries. There have been suspensions. There have been players crying on the field. Yet there's a chance for the Mets to take a share of first place shortly after the calendar flips to August.

And they're chasing a Washington team that new Met and former National Tyler Clippard recently called "beatable.''

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"This is what we want,'' said Clippard, who pitched for Washington for seven seasons. "This is an opportunity for us to win the series and inch close to them. I think we are all looking forward to that opportunity.''

In order to capitalize, the Mets will have to put their odd last two games behind them.

"This past week we have to forget about,'' said Jonathon Niese, who allowed one run in six innings Thursday. "We have to continue looking forward. This will be a good test for us here coming up. We got the Nationals here at home and we need to take care of business.''

So they can take back the NL East.