With their actions during a critical four-game series with the Nationals this weekend, the Mets revealed just how badly they needed a strong showing.

To revive a sleepwalking offense, they shuffled the deck by promoting prospect Dilson Herrera. To preserve a victory, they asked closer Jeurys Familia to deliver a five-out save. To bid for a series split and avoid another debacle at shortstop, they benched Wilmer Flores on Sunday and called it a mental health break.

Yet despite pulling out all the stops, they found a way to deliver something less watchable than Pacquiao-Mayweather. In Sunday's loss to the Nationals, the Mets reached a low they hadn't endured since 1973, falling 1-0 to the same opponent on consecutive days.

"As we said when we won 11 in a row, hey, we're going to have a down time," manager Terry Collins said. "We didn't think it was going to be right away."

Before a crowd of 41,048, the Mets lost for the seventh time in their last 10 games, a free fall that has followed an 11-game winning streak that defined the first month of the season.

They have dropped 17 of their last 19 at Citi Field to the Nationals, whose pitching staff held the Mets scoreless in their last 18 innings. The Mets limited the Nationals to two runs in the final three games of the series and still went 1-2 in that span.

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A lineup that had endured the losses of David Wright and Travis d'Arnaud suddenly has run dry. The Mets haven't scored since the eighth inning of Friday night's 4-0 victory, their only win of the series.

That's when leftfielder Jayson Werth misplayed Daniel Murphy's bases-loaded fly ball and Familia was called upon to record the final five outs.

It proved to be an especially worthwhile use of Familia, with the Mets going scoreless in their final two games of the series.

Though Flores didn't play for a second straight game, his replacement, Ruben Tejada, proved just as capable of making a costly mistake.

In the first, Tejada bobbled a ball on the transfer, failing to turn a routine double play. "I have to make a better transfer in that situation," Tejada said.

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The Nationals took advantage of the gift for the game's only run. With two outs and runners on first and second, Ryan Zimmerman reached across the plate, broke his bat and got just enough of an 0-and-2 slider, flicking it over the head of first baseman Lucas Duda for a soft RBI single.

Mets righthander Dillon Gee (0-2) found himself under constant duress thanks to five walks (one intentional). But he struck out five and held the Nationals to one run in five innings.

Reliever Alex Torres bailed out Gee in the sixth. The lefty inherited a bases-loaded, none-out jam but struck out the side. He hoped it would re-energize the offense.

Instead, the Mets squandered a chance to push ahead in the eighth, when Duda and Michael Cuddyer struck out to strand runners on second and third.

Drew Storen shut the door in the ninth and righthander Doug Fister (2-1) picked up the victory after tossing 6 1/3 innings.

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Eager to find some perspective, Collins noted that at 16-10, the Mets remain six games above .500 and hold a 3 1/2-game lead in the NL East. If he had been asked before the season if he'd accept such a scenario on May 3, Collins said: "The answer is 'of course.' "

It wasn't that long ago that a day off could have been seen as an unfortunate inconvenience. But it was clear Sunday that Flores wasn't the only one who could use a day to reset.

"The off day is coming at a good time," Cuddyer said. "Everyone can get recharged and refreshed. There's no need to press."