On the last day of the 2015 campaign, the Washington Nationals lost a 1-0 game to the New York Mets, with right-handed reliever Blake Treinen giving up a home run to a left-handed hitter and Nats' MVP candidate Bryce Harper losing out on the batting title.
It was a fairly fitting end to the season considering that the Mets took the division the Nationals were supposed to win, Treinen, who struggled to retire left-handers all season, was one of the bullpen arms that was supposed to lock down a relief role and make up for the loss of Tyler Clippard and never quite did, and all of Harper's hard work wasn't quite enough.
Harper finished his fourth major league campaign with a .330/.460/.649 line, 38 doubles, 42 home runs, 124 walks and 131 Ks in 153 games and 654 plate appearances, over which he was worth 9.6 fWAR.
Heading into the finale of the three-game set with the Mets, Harper and Miami Marlins' infielder Dee Gordon were neck and neck for the batting title with the Nats' slugger at .3308 and Gordon at .3306, but a 1 for 4 performance in Citi Field left Harper second in the race for the batting title behind Gordon, who went 3 for 4 on Sunday to finish the year with a .333 AVG.
Harper played in the season finale after sitting out Saturday night's game following a hit-by-pitch during the day half of the Nationals' split doubleheader in New York.
As Harper explained it... of course he wanted to play.
"I probably could have took the last two weeks off and hit .340 and do what I did," Harper told reporters, including MASN's Chris Johnson:
"But Dee Gordon is such a great hitter. He had over 200 hits and I tip my cap to him. He's done such a great job all year. I had to be in there today. I wanted to be in there for my team. I wanted to play my last day with (Ian Desmond), if that was the way it was going to be. These fans and this organization expect me to go out and play. It's October and I want to play in October."
"He wanted to play and he wanted to play the whole game," now-former manager Matt Williams told reporters after Sunday's loss.
"Certainly wanted to take a run at it, which he did. Hopefully the big prize is awaiting him."
Harper's season ended after a two-out, ninth-inning double on which he hustled around to second ahead of a throw in by Michael Conforto. He was stranded there when Jayson Werth popped out to end the game.
"It just tells you how he can lead a club and the way he plays can do that," Williams said when asked about Harper hustling till the very end.
"He doesn't give up, none of them gave up and I'm proud of that. We're all very proud of him for that."
"I'm really proud of him," Werth said.
"He had a great season. MVP-caliber season. You don't see those too often. I've been playing however many years now, I've seen one. So we'll see if this is two. But he's been great, I think he's come a long way in a short period of time, and I think he's going to be a big part of this club going forward and it's been a pleasure to play with him."
Ian Desmond, who is likely headed for free agency, mentioned Harper as well when he was asked what if any positives he would take from what was personally a frustrating season for him in his walk year.
"I think one of the bigger ones is kind of watching [Harper] grow up a little bit," Desmond said. "It's been fun to play a part in his career."
Williams said what stood out for him in Harper's MVP-worthy campaign was his,, "... consistency, patience, tenacity," and, "the willingness to play every day."
Harper finished the regular season ranked first in the NL in HRs (tied, 42), runs scored (118), OBP (.460), SLG (.649), wOBA (.461), wRC+ (198) and Wins Above Replacement (9.6 fWAR).
He may not get the ring he said he expected when Max Scherzer signed with the Nationals this winter, but he should be getting his MVP trophy at some point in the near future.