While it’s never easy to beat Jose Fernandez and the Miami Marlins, the Washington Nationals wasted a perfect opportunity to top the Fish and extend their winning streak to four games last night. Instead, they’re left with what could be one of the season’s most regrettable losses.
Over the course of 162 games, there are bound to be a lot of regrets, missed opportunities, and moments that can come back to bite you in the end. Such moments are natural over the course of a long season, and few remember how they transpired when everything is said and done in October.
The best teams have those moments only rarely; they win between 90 and 100 games, and they lose between 60 and 70. If a team makes the post season, it doesn’t matter how good the wins were, or how bad the losses were. What matters is that they won enough games to make it, and that whatever missteps they had along the way weren’t enough to tarnish their season.
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More often than not, however, a team has to fight to get to the postseason. Most teams struggle to get over 85 wins, and it takes a lot of success, and a little bit of luck, to reach that all-important 92-96 win range.
Some teams will fall just short of what they need to make the postseason, and teams that miss out by a game or two can often look back at the regular season and pick one or two key moments that could have made things end differently. For the Washington Nationals, one can only hope that 2016 isn’t one of those years where they just miss out on their goals, and that Saturday’s crushing loss to the Marlins isn’t a moment that the team ultimately regrets.
Make no mistake, the Nationals should have beaten Miami on Saturday. They should have clinched a series win and stretched their winning streak to four games. After all, the Nationals had the bases loaded with no outs in the top of the ninth. They were trailing by a run, but they had three on the cusp of scoring, and one big hit (or even a somewhat big hit) could have not only given the Nationals the lead, but it could’ve blown the game open for the visiting team.
Yes, the Marlins and their bullpen deserve some credit for getting out of the jam. But it was the Nationals’ offense that squandered a major opportunity to win the game. A single would have given the Nationals the lead. Two sacrifice flies would have given the Nationals the lead. Big league teams with postseason aspirations need to take advantage of those opportunities, and they rarely squander them. On Saturday, the Nationals did just that.
Double play. Groundout. Game over.
The rally died as quickly as it began, and the game ended as anti-climactically as it started.
The loss is frustrating for two reasons. For starters, loading the bases with no outs in the ninth inning and failing to score the tying run is unacceptable. But it’s more so frustrating because it once again showed that the Nationals struggle to beat the Marlins — a fourth-place team that isn’t expected to compete in 2016. indeed, the Nationals have faced Miami four times this season, and they have yet to secure a series victory over the Fish.
Granted, it’s still very early in the season. The Nationals are also playing well and in first place, and if the team plays as well as many expect them to play the rest of the way, it’s unlikely that Saturday’s loss will come back to haunt them.
That being said, it’s impossible to deny that Saturday was a missed opportunity for the Nationals. And if the team wants to make the postseason in 2016, those missed opportunities simply cannot happen.