Stop us if you’ve heard this before: The tarp is on the field at Nationals Park, with no end in sight to the rain that already has been falling all morning. Stop us, as well, if you’ve heard this before: It appears they’re going to wait this out and hope they can find a “window” in which the Nationals and Mets can play their season finale against each other.
“Right now, it’s all up to MLB,” manager Davey Martinez said during his pregame media session at noon. “We’re going to sit a while, I’m assuming.”
The Nationals have experienced no shortage of rain and related delays this month. They’ve sat through six separate rain delays, had three games postponed and played two doubleheaders.
Through it all, they haven’t lost any actual games off the 162-game schedule. Today could be the biggest threat to that possibility, though, with the Mets making no more trips to Washington and both teams already eliminated from postseason contention.
The Nationals have played 161 games in a season twice in club history. In 2008, their home finale against the Marlins was rained out and never made up. In 2011, they attempted to play a September doubleheader against the Dodgers but only got the first game in and canceled the nightcap, never making it up.
MLB, though, strongly prefers to have all teams play the full 162-game schedule, even if the games are “meaningless” in the standings. The Marlins and Pirates already had a game rescheduled for Oct. 1 after a rainout earlier this month, though at that point Pittsburgh was still on the fringes of the pennant race. In this case, both the Nats and Mets already have been eliminated from contention.
Even if the rain eases up today, there’s some concern about the state of the field, which has been soaked all month and during Thursday night’s game saw two large chunks of outfield turf get torn up when players’ feet got stuck.
“The field should be playable,” Martinez said. “(Head groundskeeper John Turnour) has done a great job this year having the field ready every time it’s rained like this. Obviously, we’ve had a lot of rain, but it’s been good. We’re going to sit around and hopefully get a chance to play today.”
Update: The Nationals have announced that today’s game is going to begin at approximately 2 p.m., so that window of opportunity apparently has opened up. Hopefully, it’ll stay open long enough.
Update II: Though the rain has continued falling throughout and the grounds crew has needed to work on the infield between innings, the Nats and Mets have completed three innings here over the last hour and 20 minutes. And the Nats hold a 3-1 lead, thanks to a sustained rally in the bottom of the third. Victor Robles got it started with a line drive over the left field wall for his second career homer. After Trea Turner walked and stole second base (giving him 123 career steals, topping Ian Desmond’s old club record), Bryce Harper sent a double down the left field line for his 99th RBI of the season (matching his career high). Steven Matz proceeded to load the bases, then walk Spencer Kieboom to force home another run, but the Nats couldn’t tack on to make it a really big inning. So it’s 3-1 heading to the fourth.
Update III: It’s not 3-1 anymore. It’s 5-3 Mets after a mess of a fourth inning for the Nationals. Erick Fedde was pulled after three batters (two of whom reached), his pitch count already at 80. Wander Suero entered from the ‘pen and caused more trouble. He walked a batter to load the bases, gave up an RBI single and then a three-run triple to Michael Conforto. Just like that, a two-run lead is a two-run deficit heading to the fifth.
Update IV: This game continues to devolve for the Nationals, who now trail 8-3 in the sixth. Suero gave up two more runs and four more hits in the fifth before he was pulled. Sammy Solís got out of that inning but gave up a run in the sixth via a double and two walks. The rain has been falling throughout, but they’ve managed to keep playing through it.
Update V: Well, the Nats haven’t given up. They really haven’t. They scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth, getting a two-run triple from Robles and an RBI double from Turner, bringing the tying run to the plate. But they couldn’t push across those final runs, despite having the heart of the lineup up. So it’s 8-6 as we crawl to the ninth inning here.