On Monday night, they gave the Mets a glimpse of how tough they really are. Washington collected 13 hits and pounded its way to a 12-4 victory at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium.
"We are playing spoilers the next  games," Nationals outfielder Ryan Church said. "All we are really playing for is staying out of the cellar and eliminate some teams. I think guys are going to take that to heart and really go out there and try to put a hurting on the other teams."
At first, it looked like the Mets were going to pound the Nats, after they had a 4-0 lead after 3 1/2 innings against right-handed starter Tim Redding. But entering the bottom of the fourth inning, Nats manager Manny Acta reminded his players in the dugout that they weren't out of this game.
"He said, 'Let's go. It's not over. Let's pick up the energy. Let's get it going a little bit,'" catcher Brian Schneider recalled Acta saying. "It shows you that he is not sitting there letting this thing get out of hand."
The energy did pick up in the bottom of the fourth, as the Nationals tied the game at 4 off Mets right-handed starter Brian Lawrence. Schneider highlighted a four-run fourth with a two-run double.
"We put some good at-bats together," Schneider said. "In that situation, you'd love to get a hit. Your job is to get the guy from third home. You can't get greedy. You have to worry about the guy from third. I was looking for a ball up in the zone, which I could get up in the air, because Lawrence's ball sinks so much. He left the ball up a little bit. I was able to pull it down the line."
It was all Nationals the rest of the way. With Mets reliever Aaron Sele on the mound, Wily Mo Pena gave the Nats a 5-4 lead in the fifth inning, when he singled to left field to drive in Nook Logan.
The Nationals took advantage of fielding miscues by the Mets and added seven more runs after taking the lead. Logan was the one guy that used his speed and bunting skills to help the Nats win the game. In the sixth inning, with runners on first and second, Logan bunted the ball toward the third-base line. Left-hander Scott Schoeneweis grabbed the ball and threw it away to right field, which allowed both Schneider and Felipe Lopez to score.
Logan did more damage to the Mets in the next inning. He singled to right field to drive in Lopez. Logan then stole second base and advanced to third on a throwing error by catcher Ramon Castro. Church then padded the scoring with a pinch-hit two-run home run off reliever Joe Smith.
"Starting with the fourth inning, we became an aggressive team," Logan said. "That's what the Mets have been doing to people all year, and they are in first place."
While the Nationals' offense took center stage, the bullpen quietly shut the Mets down for five innings, with Jonathan Albaladejo picking up his first Major League victory.
"The bullpen stopped them and gave us an opportunity to put a rally together," Acta said.
While Acta was happy that the Nats won the game, the skipper said he didn't take extra pleasure in beating the team that he worked for in 2005-06.
"I take absolutely no satisfaction in [beating] the Mets," Acta said. "I had a great time over there for two years. It started with the front office, [manager] Willie [Randolph], the coaches and the players. I was treated like a king.
"But we have to play the game the right way -- for the integrity of the game -- regardless of who we are playing. I just want to win for our team and for our fans."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.