It was inevitable for weeks, barring an improbable run, or the miraculous, but it didn’t make elimination from both the NL East and NL Wild Card races any less painful when both finally happened for the 2018 Washington Nationals.
“It stings,” first-year skipper Davey Martinez acknowledged, “but we’ve still got seven more games, and like I said, these guys don’t quit, and they showed it today.”
Martinez was talking after his squad shut the New York Mets out on Saturday afternoon in D.C., beating their divisional rivals 6-0 on a day which began around 6:00 AM at a charity event hosted by Adam Eaton.
“They came out ready to play today,” Martinez said “we had a busy day, a lot of us have been here since 6:30 this morning so and they came out ready to play and Trea [Turner] got us started with the two-run homer and we tacked on some runs. I’m proud of the guys and they’re not going to quit, we’re going to finish the season out and hopefully get five or six more wins, maybe seven, who knows, and we’ll go from there.”
For a team that had postseason (and World Series) aspirations at the start of the season, it’s safe to say it was a tough way for those dreams to end, with injuries and underperformance, bullpen and rotation issues, and a number other factors resulting in a disappointing season in which not all that much went their way and they were only able to put together one really sustained run (in a 20-7 month of May).
“You can’t win every year,” veteran first baseman Ryan Zimmerman said after Saturday’s win.
“We’ve been playing great baseball for the last two or three weeks, we’re going to finish the season strong.
“A lot of good things happened this year, obviously not what we wanted to happen, but you can’t do it every year.”
Asked what he thought led to the Nationals not doing it this year, after back-to-back NL East titles and four postseason appearances in the last six seasons, Martinez tried to explain how things went wrong.
“It’s the little things that matter and that’s something that we’ll address this winter,” he said, “that’s something that we’re going to address in Spring Training. The little things turn out to be big things. So let’s concentrate on doing little things every day ... and when you do little things they become really big things at the end so we’re going to focus a lot on that.”
“Baseball is a game of little things,” Zimmerman said when asked about his manager’s take on what went wrong.
“I think moving runners, making plays, taking the extra base, things like that,” Zimmerman explained, “... it’s nothing new, and obviously you have to do those correctly, but I think there’s a lot more that goes into that — you can do those things right and still not win games. I think health is a big thing and honestly just players playing like they should. Little things do add up, but it’s not everything.”
Zimmerman was asked if the disappointment of the way things turned out this season was made somewhat worse by the expectations that everyone had for the team this summer.
“No,” he said. “I think all of us in here would sit here and tell you we came here every day and did everything we could to try and win, at least I did, and because of that I can go home and be at peace with it. Obviously it’s frustrating. You want to come out and win every year and have a chance to go into the playoffs, but it happens.
“That’s why it’s sports, and that’s why sports are one of the greatest things in the world because you never know what’s going to happen.”
Martinez also took an opportunity before Saturday’s game to stress the positives.
“I saw a lot of guys mature throughout the season and saw a lot of positives come out of it,” he said. “So moving forward, I think in 2019 we’re going to be really, really good, I really do. Watching these guys grow and watching them mature and watching them play together as a unit, I think they understand now what it takes to move forward, I really do. This division is not going to be easy. The Braves got better, the Phillies got better, we’re going to get way better.”
It’s going to be a different squad, that’s for sure, with Bryce Harper’s future a big question, a number of relievers already gone that were going to move on, and some big decisions to be made (second base, catcher, fifth starter?) before Opening Day of 2019.