NEW YORK – The worst season in Nationals history ended tonight with another rain delay, another disastrous performance by a starting pitcher and another lopsided loss to a division opponent.
A 9-2 loss to the Mets in Game 162, which began 1 hour and 51 minutes late due to rain, almost felt too appropriate to be true.
It was a fitting conclusion to a miserable season for the Nationals, who finish with a 55-107 record, worst since the franchise arrived in D.C. in 2005.
That includes an abysmal 17-59 record against NL East opponents, a .224 winning percentage that is now the lowest for any major league franchise since divisional play began in 1969, a mark previously held by the 1987 Orioles, who went 18-60 in the AL East for a .231 winning percentage. They were a far more respectable 38-48 against everyone outside the division.
"Our season's over right now, for the players," manager Davey Martinez said. "But the work is just beginning for myself, (general manager Mike Rizzo) and the front office. We've got a lot of work to do. I'm looking forward to this winter, getting things done, and then getting ready for spring training."
There are countless reasons why the gap between the Nationals and their four NL East counterparts (Braves, Mets, Phillies, Marlins) was so large, but the most significant might well be the disparity in starting pitching and the disparity in power figures.
Nationals starters ended the year with a 5.97 ERA, worst in the majors. Every other team in the division finished in the top half of the sport in rotation ERA, with all but the Phillies finishing in the top nine in baseball.
"We understand that starting pitching has to be better than it is right now," Rizzo said. "We also understand that we've got a good group of young arms that we're going to count on, and we're going to have to count on in the near future."
Erick Fedde didn’t help his case to still be considered part of the future with his performance in tonight’s finale. The right-hander was ransacked for nine runs in 2 1/3 innings, giving up three a piece in the bottom of the first, second and third. He allowed a three-run homer to Mark Canha in the first. He allowed a three-run double to Francisco Lindor in the second and he allowed a three-run homer to James McCann in the third before Martinez mercifully pulled the plug on him.
Fedde ends his fifth big league season with a 6-13 record, 5.81 ERA and 1.630 WHIP, leaving himself vulnerable to an offseason non-tender by the Nationals, who may finally decide to move on from their 2014 first-round pick.
"For the most part, I think I took the ball every five days, whether I was feeling good or not," he said of his 2022 performance. "I went out there and felt like I competed for pretty much every start that I could've. I still want to go deeper in games, be a little more effective. Those things will come with lots of hard work over this offseason."
Not that Fedde was the only member of this rotation to leave his team in a huge hole. Remarkably, the Nats trailed at least 8-0 in four of their last five games this season. The only exception: Tuesday’s doubleheader-opening loss here, in which they trailed 4-0 early.
It’s tough for any lineup to mount the kind of comeback needed to climb out of those kinds of holes, but this lineup in particular wasn’t well equipped to do it. The Nationals did get a two-run homer from Alex Call (his fifth in 35 games after they claimed him off waivers from the Guardians) in the top of the fifth, but that wasn’t nearly enough.
They finished the season with 136 homers, fewest in the NL and the fewest they’ve hit since 2008. But they gave up 244 homers, most in the majors and three shy of the club record they established last year.
"We have to find one or two guys (who could hit more home runs)," Martinez said. "I think some of our younger guys, you'll start seeing a little bit more of the power come out. But for me, it's all about starting pitching."
In this 107-loss season, it truly was about everything.