WASHINGTON -- Those within the Nationals organization have swatted away talk about their closing window and will continue to do so, even as their biggest star and arguably their best player is set to enter free agency this offseason. On a day when the team and fans were celebrating Bryce
WASHINGTON -- Those within the Nationals organization have swatted away talk about their closing window and will continue to do so, even as their biggest star and arguably their best player is set to enter free agency this offseason. On a day when the team and fans were celebrating Bryce Harper in what could be his final home game in a Nationals uniform, perhaps Harper's natural replacement in the outfield stole the spotlight.
Victor Robles collected four hits, including a two-run double and a three-run homer, to lead the Nationals to a 9-3 victory Wednesday in their home finale against the Marlins in a game shortened to seven innings due to inclement weather.
The four hits and five RBIs were each career highs for Robles -- the team's top prospect and MLB Pipeline's fifth-ranked prospect in MLB -- and another example of why the Nats' front office believes they are well positioned for the future, regardless of what happens with Harper this winter. With Robles and Juan Soto, who had two hits of his own Wednesday, the future remains bright in D.C., especially in the outfield.
"Those two guys are some of the best young players in the game," Harper said. "I enjoy what they do. I enjoy what they bring to the clubhouse. I enjoy what they bring to the game, and it's a lot of fun to watch. When you look at [Soto], when you look at [Robles], you see two guys that are going to be possible superstars."
The Nats even received an encouraging outing on the mound from Kyle McGowin, making his first career start in place of Tanner Roark, even if it ended prematurely. McGowin retired the first 11 batters he faced and threw four scoreless innings, but he issued consecutive walks to start the fifth inning and was removed from the game after developing a blister.
Still, the day belonged to Harper. He was greeted with a standing ovation each time he stepped into the batter's box, even as he went 0-for-4 with pairs of flyouts and strikeouts. He was standing in the on-deck circle when heavy rain began to fall in the seventh inning, washing away his final at-bat in front of the home crowd and ruining any plans manager Dave Martinez had for an extended send-off for Harper.
"I definitely don't like the rain right now," Harper said with a smile after the game. "But that's how it goes. ... You never know what's going to happen in the offseason. You never know if I'm coming back or not. I tried to enjoy it the best I could today, and I did."
It's impossible to know where Harper will sign this winter or for how long or how much money he will command. However, this week he has publicly stated his desire to remain in D.C. This city and this team are all that Harper knows and all he has known since he was drafted at 17 years old and made his Major League debut at 19 in a 2012 season that ended with the NL Rookie of the Year Award. He says he hopes he is in the Nationals' plans for the future.
"Harp has been a great help to me," Robles said through an interpreter. "I wish him all the best. Hopefully, he's back, and if he's not, I wish him all the best. He's going to be missed if he's not. He just brings a lot to the game."
If Harper and the Nats cannot come to an agreement this offseason, however, the Nationals are as well positioned as one could possibly be to lose a talent like Harper. Robles provided a reminder of that Wednesday. In his last six starts, Robles is batting .379 with two doubles, one triple, three home runs and nine RBIs.
"I like what I see," Martinez said. "He's full of energy. He can spark our team. There's still a lot for him to learn, obviously. But he's going to learn, and he wants to learn. And that's a good thing. I really love what I see."
The Nationals finished their home schedule with the record of 41-40, their ninth consecutive winning season at home. They also scored 409 runs at home, the second most in a single season since the park opened in 2008, trailing only the 2017 season (421).
Following an off-day Thursday, the Nationals begin a three-game series at Coors Field against the Rockies on Friday night. Joe Ross will make his third and final start of the year to complete his comeback from Tommy John surgery. Harper is expected to play all three games in what could be his final series in a Nationals uniform. First pitch is at 8:10 p.m. ET.
Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.