WASHINGTON -- It has been three years since Nationals Park was the venue for a game like Sunday's, a late September matchup between two teams already eliminated from postseason contention. The Nationals were officially eliminated the day prior, an unceremonious ending to an underachieving 2018 season that ensures they will watch October from the sidelines for the first time since '15.
The Nats decided to keep a few of their starters off a wet field during Sunday's 8-6 loss to the Mets, which began after a 25-minute delay due to inclement weather and was played through spells of rain the entire afternoon. The loss drops Washington back to .500, the place its record has hovered around for so much of the summer.
Yet, with one week remaining before the end of the season, the Nationals still have something to play for -- whether it be personal accomplishments and awards, pride or the chance for the team to evaluate players ahead of 2019.
"Just keep playing hard," Trea Turner said. "Today was a tough game to mentally get into with the rain delay, and it was pretty cold for the first time in a long time. It wasn't fun at times, but I felt like we battled."
There was plenty of good on display. Bryce Harper collected his 99th RBI of the year. Turner reached base five times and stole the 123rd base of his career, the most in team history. Victor Robles, the Nats' top prospect and fifth overall in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline, hit his second career homer in the third inning and a two-run triple in the eighth. As Robles has gained more playing time this week, along with a minor adjustment to his swing, he appears to be getting more comfortable at the plate.
"I feel more relaxed and comfortable at home plate," Robles said through an interpreter. "I stay more patient, and I see more pitches a lot earlier, and that helps me feel more comfortable out there."
However, Sunday's starter Erick Fedde is one of the players the organization hopes can take a step forward and grab a rotation spot for next season, and he struggled mightily.
The wet conditions on the field might have hindered him, but Fedde refused to use that as an excuse for why he never found his command. He walked four, gave up five hits and was charged for three runs when he was removed after 3 1/3 innings on 80 pitches. It continued an uneven trend for Fedde, where at times he shows flashes of brilliance, but rarely maintains it consistently. In 10 starts this year, he owns a 5.24 ERA.
"It comes in waves of both," Fedde said. "There are times when I'm like, 'I can pitch at this level, I can be successful, and I think I can dominate.' And then there are times that are like, 'What are you doing out there?' But I think that comes with the learning curve, and I just make sure that isn't a very long learning curve."
Wander Suero came on in relief and did not fare much better, giving up four runs on six hits in 1 1/3 innings, but as they have so often this year, the Nats battled back with a three-run eighth to keep the score close. But their comeback attempt was futile as the Nats dropped three of four this weekend to the Mets.
"Obviously we didn't come out on top, but if we just continue to [not] give in, don't give up, that's fine with me," Turner said. "That's what I'm trying to personally do, and I think that's what we should do as a team."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Juan Soto does not have much pinch-hitting experience this season, but he represented the go-ahead run when he was called upon with two outs and two on in the eighth inning. A wild pitch put two runners in scoring position for Soto to at least tie the game, but Anthony Swarzak induced a popout from Soto to end the frame.
Anthony Rendon extended his career-high on-base streak to 31 games, currently the longest active streak in the Majors. It's also the third longest streak in the NL this year, trailing Matt Carpenter's 35-game streak and Odubel Herrera's 40-game streak.
Turner extended his own on-base streak to a career-high 23 games.
HE SAID IT
"I think any time a record is within reach, I think it's always cool to be mentioned along with it or beat one or set your own. It's a lot of hard work. It shows it can pay off if you continue to try to get better and put the work in over a long time. So, I like it." -- Turner, on setting a new team stolen bases record
"I mean, [this season is] just another building block. I like to think this year's been much more of a growing experience and something where I have had ups and downs. I'm not where I want to be, but I can see that I'm getting close, and I'm just trying to take this year one step at a time and finish strong here at the end and hopefully be a better pitcher for this team in the long run." -- Fedde, on his 2018 season
The Nationals begin their final home series of the season when they host the Marlins for three games starting Monday at 7:05 p.m. ET at Nationals Park. Stephen Strasburg will take the mound for Washington, and he has been on a roll in his past five starts. During that span, he is 3-0 with a 2.64 ERA and 38 strikeouts. Sandy Alcantara will be the opposing pitcher for Miami.