ST. LOUIS - A harsh reality hit the Nationals tonight following their 4-3 loss to the Cardinals, a defeat that came just minutes after the Pirates and Reds had taken care of business and earned late wins.
"The postseason door is officially closed," Ian Desmond said.
The Nats will have five more regular season games and then head their separate ways, bound for the offseason after a turbulent 2013 campaign that saw them struggle through the first four months of the season before putting things together and becoming the hottest team in baseball for the last six weeks.
"We've got a good group of guys," Desmond said. "I'm proud of this team. I couldn't ask to be in a better place with a better group of guys. We created this expectation. Nobody else. Two years ago, you would've said, 'Washington Nationals, postseason,' people would've laughed you out of town. The guys who are in here, for the most part, are the guys that created this atmosphere, created the expectations and I'm proud to be a part of that."
During one portion of his postgame session with reporters, Adam LaRoche echoed Desmond's positive attitude.
"A month ago, you could have said we were out of this thing," LaRoche said. "Fought our way back in. Took it somewhat down to the wire. Just came up short."
That said, the Nationals have to look back on those first four months and shake their heads. A team that won 98 games last season and was thought to be one of the most talented teams in baseball this year struggled to hit a groove through the majority of the season, forcing the Nats to play at an elite level to even get back into the playoff picture.
"If we would've played the way we did in August and September early on in the year, we probably wouldn't be in this situation," Desmond said. "But this is what it is and we've got to deal with it."
"We played so bad early and were waiting for this thing to come around," LaRoche said. "It was good to see that we did have it in us to play good baseball. We went three months without it. I don't think anybody could pinpoint the problem. To come out and finally put it all together, it was late and not enough. It was still good to see it.
"It got so frustrating for months. Not being able to figure it out, you start to doubt yourself. The last month or two has kind of proved that this team can go out there and get it done. We just got to find a way to be consistent."
Consistency was something the Nats certainly lacked this season, and it cost them.
"It sucks," Bryce Harper said. "We want to make the playoffs and that's that. You play the whole year to try to get deep in the playoffs, October, November, and see if you can get to the World Series. It's a bummer we didn't get there."