DENVER -- The finish line arrived much sooner than anticipated for the Nationals, who never thought a 12-0 loss to the Rockies on Sunday at Coors Field would mark the end of their season. Washington was a team expected to not only compete for a division title, but to challenge
DENVER -- The finish line arrived much sooner than anticipated for the Nationals, who never thought a 12-0 loss to the Rockies on Sunday at Coors Field would mark the end of their season. Washington was a team expected to not only compete for a division title, but to challenge for a World Series championship, only to watch those dreams fizzle this summer.
Before an offseason of introspection about what went wrong, the Nationals had one more attempt to play spoiler, but they could not slow down the Rockies' charge toward the postseason -- they will play the Dodgers in Los Angeles in Game 163 on Monday to determine the National League West champion. Washington finished the season 82-80, its fewest wins in a season since 2011 and good for a second-place finish in the NL East. Although they underperformed following the high expectations that were set at the beginning of the season, the Nationals still managed to wrap with the franchise's seventh consecutive winning record.
"It's really shown us, our fan base, our ownership group and our front office that winning in the big leagues isn't easy," general manager Mike Rizzo said prior to the game. "It's a difficult task. We've made it look pretty easy the last seven years, and that's a compliment to those guys in the clubhouse."
The offseason now arrives with a few areas for the Nationals to consider.
First is what to make of starter Erick Fedde, who took the mound Sunday instead of Max Scherzer after the Nats decided to shut down their ace after a heavy workload this season. Washington also saw this as an opportunity for Fedde to pitch in a postseason-like atmosphere in front of a sold-out crowd.
But the Rockies controlled the game from the start, hammering five homers -- including two from Nolan Arenado, who holds the National League lead with 37 -- to back a dominant pitching performance from Tyler Anderson, who held the Nats to four hits in 7 2/3 innings.
Fedde allowed four runs on five hits during his four innings, yielding two-run homers to Arenado in the first and Charlie Blackmon, who hit for the cycle, in the third. In 11 starts during an injury-plagued season, Fedde finished with a 5.54 ERA. Washington will have at least two openings in its 2019 rotation, and while Fedde showed positive signs at points during this season, he has not pitched consistently enough to secure one of those spots.
"He needs to get stronger, for sure," manager Dave Martinez said. "And he needs to know who he is, and know what he wants to do. He's going to be a good one; he's just really young. The biggest thing for him is to stay healthy. He hasn't stayed healthy. And he needs to stay healthy."
And then there is Bryce Harper, who could have been playing in his final game in a Nationals uniform. Harper will be a free agent at season's end, and while Rizzo reiterated Sunday morning that Harper is in the team's plans going forward, his future remains uncertain. Harper finished 2-for-4 with two doubles in the loss.
"Nobody knows," Harper said. "Nobody knows if I'm going to be back, and nobody knows if I'm going to be in a different uniform."
Rizzo said he had penned several reasons why the Nats will watch from the sidelines in October for the first time since 2015, and there will be an entire offseason to reflect upon them. Rizzo believes '18 was an anomaly and that next season will extend far beyond the regular season.
"Unfortunately we're going home, not playing in October, but I'll reiterate: I'm proud of the boys," Martinez said. "This could've gone really bad a couple months ago, and they kept it together and played hard. They played really hard the last few months, and I enjoyed it. My first year as manager is over, but I'm looking forward to my second."
After starting at shortstop Sunday, Trea Turner became just the second player in Nationals history to appear in all 162 games in a season.
HE SAID IT
"For right now, I'm a National. For right now, in this place right now, I'm a National." -- Harper, on his future
Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.