NEW YORK – The Nationals have owned the worst record in baseball throughout the vast majority of this season. And this evening, they officially ensured they will end the season with the worst record in baseball.
A 4-2 loss to the Mets in the opener of a scheduled doubleheader in the rain and wind at Citi Field was the Nationals’ 105th of the season. The Athletics cannot finish with more than 104 losses.
For decades, that indignity would’ve guaranteed the No. 1 pick in next summer’s draft. But in an attempt to discourage teams from openly tanking, Major League Baseball’s new collective bargaining agreement with the MLB Players Association instituted a draft lottery, giving every team that doesn’t make the playoffs an opportunity to pick first.
The Nationals will have a better chance than most: 16.5 percent, same as the teams that finish with the second- and third-worst records. They are guaranteed only of a top-seven pick.
Consider it one final downer to this season full of downers, which wraps up Wednesday against the playoff-bound Mets, still mathematically able to win the National League East until either they lose a game or the Braves win one.
“I look at the season as a disappointment,” general manager Mike Rizzo said earlier today in a season wrap-up with beat reporters. “I’ve always said that you are what your record says you are, and our record says we’re the worst team in the league right now. And it’s hard to argue with that.
“But the flip side of that is: We’re in a process. And the process is tried and true. We’ve done it before. Not a lot of teams can say that. And the process is moving forward, and it’s ongoing and I think it’s a productive process.”
The offseason process will begin following Wednesday afternoon’s finale. Before that can happen, the Nationals have two more games to play here, if the weather allows it. They’ll attempt to complete tonight’s doubleheader with upcoming nightcap after dropping the opener.
A season that saw Cory Abbott move from the Cubs to the Giants to the Nationals, then shuttle back and forth between Rochester and Washington before finally sticking in D.C. came to a conclusion today for the 25-year-old right-hander. Given his ninth start (16th overall appearance), Abbott ran into some of the same trouble that plagued him in previous outings: He was effective early, then quickly faded as the start progressed.
Abbott navigated the Mets’ lineup the first time without surrendering a run, despite allowing four of the nine batters to reach base. But when leadoff man Brandon Nimmo delivered a two-out, two-run double to right in the bottom of the second, the wheels began to fall off for him.
Abbott allowed eight of the last 16 batters he faced to reach, with four of them coming around to score. That included a painful sequence in the third inning when he allowed a leadoff single, uncorked a wild pitch that hit the backstop on the fly and then issued back-to-back walks. It also included a solo homer by Nimmo in the fourth that all but ended the starter’s afternoon.
Pulled after that final frame, with his pitch count already up to 88, Abbott ended his season with a 5.25 ERA and 1.438 WHIP over 48 big league innings.
"Ugly progress," he said when asked how he'd evaluate his season. "Just finding myself and what I need to do and stay in the big leagues as a starter. I have a lot to go off of, I guess. I'll keep pushing in the offseason and come back stronger than ever."
Down 4-0, the Nationals faced an uphill climb against Carlos Carrasco. They did get to the Mets starter in the fifth when Victor Robles doubled and Riley Adams followed with a two-run homer to left, knocking Carrasco from the game. (Alex Call wound up pinch-running for Robles, who appeared to injure himself running out his double.)
But that’s all the Nats managed at the plate, shut down the rest of the way by New York’s bullpen en route to their 105th loss of the season.