Nationals believe strong finish will turn into good start in 2014

Winning Sunday's nightcap was nice, but the realization of the predicament the Nationals put themselves in came Sunday afternoon at home when they dropped a 4-2 decision to the Marlins.

"It didn't help it, for sure," said center fielder Denard Span. "It just made it tougher on us to try to pull this thing out. We are going to keep fighting until we are absolutely out of it. We are stumbling right now, but we are going to keep fighting until it is over."

But that does not mean that they will forget what they have been able to do since Aug. 9. The Nationals have won 30 of their last 42 games to at least make the final week interesting.

"Whether we make the playoffs or don't make the playoffs, I think all of us should hold our heads up," Span said. "A month ago or two months ago, we were written off. I think something should be said for the way we rallied as a team, and finishing the season off good. Hopefully, the fans see that and the rest of baseball sees that as well."

Right-hander Stephen Strasburg went six innings Sunday night and left with a no-decision. He said this final run has added to the resolve of the Nats heading into the offseason and maybe they can pull off what they did from 2011 heading into 2012.

"I think (if) you ask anybody in here, I think we beat ourselves way too many times this year," Strasburg noted. "There is no doubt that we have the ability to get to the playoffs and go deep in the playoffs. Just for one reason or another, we just weren't able to stay consistent. I think it is huge for us to finish strong like we have in September here. Much like the year before last, carry that into spring training and get back on it."

Asked Saturday about the team's run, left fielder Bryce Harper said playing so well in August and September can only have a positive effect in 2014.

"We are playing our butts off right now, and it is a lot of fun," Harper said. "We have been playing hard all year. There are so many games we can look back on and say, 'man, we only lost by one run or man (or on) that one pitch.'

"But you can't look at that. You have to look at what is happening right now and how it is happening. We are one of the best teams in all of baseball right now. I think everybody can see that and we are coming on strong. Hopefully, we can keep winning and keep rolling and somebody can take a tumble."

Span said the Nationals know they put themselves in this predicament, but that doesn't mean they will just throw their hands in the air and pack their bags.

"There is no question we definitely missed some opportunities early in the season," Span said. "If we had been playing better we probably would be celebrating pretty soon. If we don't make the playoffs, we are going to have a long offseason to think about that and try to get better."

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