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Nationals beat Mets, 7-4, to make it 3 in a row

Michael Conforto walks back to the Mets

Michael Conforto walks back to the Mets dugout after striking out against the Nationals at Citi Field on Saturday, June 17, 2017. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

We’ve reached the juncture in this painful season where the Mets simply cannot look back to what they’ve left behind, lest they turn into a pillar of salt. There’s no checking the review mirror for the unending list of players too hurt to help them. Those preseason projections, the ones that had them challenging the Nationals for the best in the National League East, can’t help them anymore.

Instead, every day is an exercise in forgetting.

Forgetting what could have been and instead focusing on what’s ahead: a grueling and increasingly intimidating 95 games where whatever is left of this Mets team must somehow find a way to crawl and claw back to respectability. That crawling and clawing did not begin on Saturday, however, when the Mets dropped yet another one to forget — a 7-4 loss to the Nationals, who expanded their lead to 11 1⁄2 games.

“It is frustrating,” said Jay Bruce, who went 3-for-4. “They’re obviously a team right in front of us and we have a lot of work to do. We have an uphill battle to climb — a chance to chip into that a little bit and we haven’t. But like I said, you can’t go back. You can’t look at what could have been.”

No, all anybody has is what is. And what’s going on now is that the Mets these past three games have looked woefully overmatched. On Saturday, Seth Lugo allowed a run in each of the first four innings and the Mets offense struggled to get a foothold on a human-looking Steven Strasburg. The Mets are 0-6 against the Nationals at Citi Field, and have quashed even their most modest hopes. Before the series, Terry Collins said they hoped to leave this series no worse than when they came in, but that dream ended on Saturday. After, he preached resilience.

“They can’t get down about the situation,” the manager said. “They can’t get down because guys aren’t here. Everybody knows guys aren’t here. You have to continue to show up every day and prepare and grind the 27 outs. Grind it out . . . If you feel sorry for yourself here, you’re going to get your butt handed to you, so we don’t. We can’t afford to do that.”

Lugo pitched capably against a dangerous lineup — allowing four runs on seven hits in 6 2⁄3 innings. Trea Turner led off the game with a home run, on Lugo’s second pitch. Jose Lobaton hit only his second home run of the year in the second, and Daniel Murphy continued to torment his old team, with an RBI double in the third. Lobaton scored in the fourth on a throwing error.

Down 4-1 in the sixth, the Mets got one, but left a whole lot more on the table. After back-to-back singles by Yoenis Cespedes and Bruce, Wilmer Flores hit a mid-depth sacrifice fly, with Cespedes only barely eluding the tag. Strasburg then walked Duda, before the Nationals tapped into their one true weakness, the bullpen. This time, though, Blake Treinen induced a double play off the bat of T.J. Rivera, stranding two.

Strasburg allowed two earned runs in 5 1⁄3 innings, with two walks and five strikeouts.

Adam Lind hit a two-run homer off Paul Sewald in the eighth to make it 6-3, but the Mets got one back in the bottom of the inning on Cespedes’ solo home run to left. Jose Reyes’ two-out single with two outs in the inning cut the deficit to 6-4. But Rene Rivera struck out, his fourth of the day, to end the threat. Rendon’s double off Addison Reed in the ninth provided the final margin.

For anyone who does look back — to think of what the Mets could have been and compare it to what they’ve shown themselves to be in this young season — nothing but disappointment awaits.

“We came into spring training with a very talented team on paper and we had a lot of injuries,” Bruce said, “but I think we’re a group of professionals that understand the process and understand it’s a long season and no one is feeling sorry for us.

“I think the biggest thing that we all agree on is that we can’t go back . . . Play good baseball, that’s just the bottom line. We can’t think about what we had before.”

No, you can only figure out what you’re going to do with that you have left.

Thursday, Friday . . . Naturday!

The Nats will go for four-game sweep today. A look at the onesided numbers from the first three games.

Nationals Mets

3 Wins 0

22 Runs 9

7 Home runs 4

20 1⁄3 Innings, 15 Hits, 5 ERStarting pitching 18 2⁄3 IP, 26 Hits, 14 ER

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