The Nationals have said for the last week they pretty much needed to win out to have a shot at the National League wildcard. So with a 4-2 loss in the opening game of two on Sunday to the Marlins, the window for a shot at the playoff berth is almost shut.
"Any loss right now makes it tougher," said third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. "Like I said before, I am not that good at math, but I am good enough to figure it out that losing makes it tougher. But, you just got to keep playing and see what happens. We put ourselves in this situation, just got to keep trying to finish strong."
Losing pitcher Dan Haren has continually blamed himself for why the Nationals are in the predicament they found themselves. But that doesn't tell the whole story. The offense struggle for most of the year, and the bullpen also had some problems at times.
"We had to win pretty much every game going forward," Haren said. "It is just a matter of the hole that we dug ourselves. We didn't play good baseball. I obviously struggled in the beginning of the year. First couple of months, I was a big part of the reason we were down so many games, turned it around for the most part.
"(I was) still a big reason why we were down so many games is I wasn't able to maintain the consistency the front three guys were throwing the ball so well in the beginning of the year."
The Braves clinched the N.L. East thanks to the Nationals' loss. Their magic number was one at the start of play Sunday as they wrapped up a series in Chicago.
Also, the Reds increased their wildcard lead to 5 1/2 games with an easy 11-3 win at Pittsburgh.
"Right now every loss is a big loss," said center fielder Denard Span. "We just got to keep battling. Cincinnati was winning. We have been saying for the last week or so we can't lose and unfortunately we lost today."
Manager Davey Johnson said the Braves deserve credit for winning the division this season, but he realizes his team had a good shot if they had played up to their potential early on.
"They have had a good year," Johnson said. "I like their ball club. They balanced out their lineup. They were more left-handed last year. They have pretty good depth in their bullpen.
They were tougher to get matchups against because of the addition of (Chris) Johnson and the Uptons, before they really didn't have any right-handed presence to speak of even on the bench. But, if we had done things that we were capable of we could have been right there."
"We thought we had a chance obviously to contend to win the division," Zimmerman said. "We think we have a chance every year. We had a good team and for whatever reason we got off to a slow start. They had that run in the middle of the year where they went something crazy 18-2 or 16-4, something like that. They are a good team. You don't win as many games as they did without being a good team. This year they get it, we will be going for it next year. It is just the way it goes."
Here is the starting lineup for the Nationals and Marlins in Game 2 against the Marlins, Wilson Ramos returns after sitting out the first game. It is Stephen Strasburg's first start in two weeks.
Denard Span CF
Ryan Zimmerman 3B
Jayson Werth RF
Bryce Harper LF
Ian Desmond SS
Wilson Ramos C
Tyler Moore 1B
Anthony Rendon 2B
Stephen Strasburg P
Donovan Solano 2B
Ed Lucas 1B
Christian Yelich LF
Giancarlo Stanton RF
Justin Ruggiano CF
Chris Coghlan 3B
Adeiny Hechavarria SS
Koyie Hill C
Brian Flynn P