Given the discouraging forecast - not only for tonight but for Thursday, as well - the Nationals had to feel fortunate to get five full innings in against the Diamondbacks this evening.
If only the score at the end of those five innings didn't favor Arizona.
The Nationals were left to suffer a 3-0 loss after the game was called in the top of the sixth with heavy rain falling at the ballpark.
The rain-shortened loss leaves the Nationals with a 92-66 record, 1 1/2 games ahead of the Dodgers, who are still playing tonight in San Diego. The Nats' magic number to clinch home field advantage in next week's National League Division Series currently sits at four.
There were serious doubts about the ability to play this game at all tonight, with rain moving into the area in the afternoon and expected to remain well into Friday. But after a brief, 33-minute delay when it wasn't actually raining, Gio Gonzalez threw the game's first pitch at 7:38 p.m.
Gonzalez, making his final start of the regular start, immediately fell into a 1-0 hole on a pair of singles, a double-steal and an RBI groundout by Paul Goldschmidt.
The left-hander labored throughout his abbreviated outing, giving up another run in the third on Chris Drury's double over Brian Goodwin's head in right field and three straight two-out singles in the fourth. At that point, Gonzalez's pitch count sat at 100, and manager Dusty Baker signaled for his bullpen to take over.
Gonzalez, a Miami native of Cuban descent, was pitching with a heavy heart three days after the death of Marlins right-hander Jose Fernandez. The lefty had tears in his eyes as he warmed up before the game, though he showed no outward emotions while on the mound. He's scheduled to fly to Miami on Thursday and attend Fernandez's funeral.
Gonzalez ends his regular season 11-11 with a 4.57 ERA in 32 starts. He's expected to start either Game 3 or 4 of the NLDS, with the Nationals hoping for a favorable matchup against a Dodgers team that boasts the majors' least productive lineup against left-handers.
Arizona right-hander Shelby Miller, wrapping up an incredibly frustrating season that included a 3-12 record and 6.15 ERA, scattered four singles and a walk over five innings. The Nationals advanced just one runner into scoring position, in the bottom of the fifth, but stranded him there when pinch-hitter Stephen Drew grounded out and Trea Turner sent a fly ball to the warning track in right-center.
The game was called at 10:42 p.m. following a 62-minute delay.