There will be no postseason appearance for the Nationals in 2018.
Eliminated from the National League East race Friday night, the Nats were eliminated from the NL wild card race this afternoon when Tyler O’Neill hit a walk-off homer off Mark Melancon in St. Louis to give the Cardinals a 5-4 10-inning victory over the Giants.
That result leaves the Nationals trailing the Cardinals by 8 1/2 games for the final playoff berth in the NL, with only eight games remaining on the schedule. Mathematically, they no longer have a chance to make a miracle run.
Not that the wild card was ever a particularly viable path to October for the Nationals. Four other clubs (the Rockies, Diamondbacks, Pirates and Phillies) sit between the Nats and Cardinals, which severely limited Washington’s opportunities to gain ground over the last month.
A third consecutive division crowd seemed to be the Nationals’ only hope to reach the postseason, but they never could put any pressure on the Braves. They haven’t been closer than 6 1/2 games back since Aug. 12, the night Ryan Madson surrendered a gut-punch, walk-off grand slam to David Bote at Wrigley Field.
The Braves, meanwhile, bounced back from what could have been a tide-turning sweep at the hands of the Red Sox earlier this month by winning 11 of their last 16. That includes three straight over the Phillies, capped by today’s 5-3 win at SunTrust Park to clinch Atlanta’s first NL East title since 2013.
With eight games left, the Nationals will be playing only to try to extend their streak of consecutive winning seasons to seven. They need to go 5-3 to achieve that goal.
Update: The Nats are off to a good start today against the Mets, jumping out to a 2-0 lead after three innings. Victor Robles and Trea Turner teamed up for a double and a homer in the bottom of the third, accounting for both runs. Austin Voth has issued two walks but zero hits through his first three innings, keeping New York’s hitters off-balance so far. And Bryce Harper drew his 125th walk of the season, breaking his own club record from his MVP campaign of 2015.
Update II: Harper wasn’t able to take Jerry Blevins deep in the bottom of the sixth, his drive to center field falling about five feet short and leaving the star slugger slamming his helmet when he returned to the dugout. But Matt Wieters was able to do what Harper couldn’t. Later in the inning, after Blevins had intentionally walked Ryan Zimmerman, Wieters launched his seventh homer of the season, a three-run shot to left-center to extend the Nats’ lead to 5-0 and put Voth in better position to earn his first career win. Voth went five scoreless before he was pulled, a very strong outing for the rookie, who will now watch the rest of the proceedings and hope his teammates can finish this one off.
Update III: Nats win. Nats win. Final score: 6-0. Harper delivered a run-scoring double in the eighth to extend the lead and notch his 98th RBI (one shy of his career-high). Turner was the man who scored the run, having reached scoring position via his 41st stolen base of the season, his 122nd career steal. And the Nationals bullpen finished off what Voth started with four scoreless innings to complete the shutout and give the rookie starter his first career win. They’re back over .500 again at 78-77, heading into Sunday’s series finale.