When the weather was warm and the stands were packed, everything seemed to go the Washington Nationals’ way.
But now, having been eliminated from playoff contention after a huge second half collapse, the Nationals will try and avoid finishing their season in last place in the NL East as they begin a three-game set with the Florida Marlins.
Opponents’ deep drives turned into outs in spacious RFK Stadium, late rallies were commonplace, the bullpen was almost untouchable, and one-run wins piled up. On July 3, 81 games removed from Montreal, the capital’s new club was 50-31—on pace for 100 wins!—and owned a 5 1/2 -game lead in the NL East.
At 4:19 p.m. Sunday, under a cloud-filled sky, an announced crowd of 29,967 watched silently as a harmless groundout left the potential winning run on first base in the bottom of the ninth. That ended Washington’s 6-5 loss to the New York Mets, who hit four homers, two by Mike Piazza.
“If we finished in last, obviously, that would be a shame,” catcher Gary Bennett said. “In the second half, we collapsed. Plain and simple. We didn’t get it done.”
While the Nationals have been eliminated, the Marlins’ playoff hopes are dimming.
Faltering to a 1-5 record on their road trip, the Marlins find themselves on the brink of elimination.
They trail Houston by five games with six to play.
“It’s depressing around here,” said Florida pitcher A.J. Burnett, who allowed five runs Sunday and indicated he will not re-sign with the team after the season. “There’s nothing positive around here. There’s nothing positive on the staff now.”