Nationals sweep the Marlins
The game began under blue skies, but it started to rain after seven innings and after waiting for about an hour, it was called by the umpires, thus depriving Washington fans of the chance to see Bryce Harper at bat for perhaps the last time in a Nationals uniform. Victor Robles was the undisputed star of the game, getting four hits in five at-bats, including his third career home run. Adrian Sanchez, playing at second base, went three for four, and Spencer Kieboom got three RBIs with his two hits. In his very first MLB outing, Kyle McGowin retired the first 11 batters he faced but was replaced after walking the first two batters in the fifth inning, due a blister. It was an impressive display by the rookies, while veterans Harper, Rendon, and Turner all went hitless. Final score: Nats 9, Marlins 3.
After the game, the Nationals players tossed goodies to the fans who remained for the hour or so after play was suspended. Then Bryce Harper came out of the dugout, and cheers erupted. Today's Washington Post column by Barry Svrluga suggests that Bryce is feeling melancholy about his impending free agent status:
I've always said: If I'm in those plans, I'd absolutely love to be here. ... But if I'm not, there's nothing I can do about it. There's nothing I can do. I would love to play next to Robles or Soto or [Adam] Eaton. I'd love to. But am I in those plans? I have no idea.
Scherzer gets strikeout #300
In one of the few truly uplifting moments in Nationals Park this year, Max Scherzer got his 300th strikeout of the season last night. It came in the seventh inning, as the Marlins' Austin Dean became Mad Max's tenth strikeout victim of the night. It was quite an emotional moment, and I made a point to record it as it was happening for posterity. Anthony Rendon led the offensive charge, with a three-run homer in the first inning and an RBI single later in the game. Final score: Nats 9, Marlins 4. Will Max pitch against the Rockies in the final game of the season on Sunday? The franchise record for strikeouts is 305 (by Pedro Martinez of the Expos in 1997), but the Washington record is 313 (by Walter Johnson in 1910), and that is probably out of reach. But you never know! Max himself holds the Nationals' season strikeout record: 284, in 2016.
In the first game of the series, referred to briefly on Monday, the Nationals beat the Marlins 7-3. Stephen Strasburg struggled mightily in the first inning, throwing over 20 pitches, and was lucky that the Marlins only scored one run. He came out after four innings, having thrown 100 pitches. Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto, and Matt Wieters all hit home runs. That victory put the Nats back at an even 78-78 record, but more importantly thrust them into second place for the first time since June 20! The Phillies have been losing so often lately that the Nationals really should have taken second place several days ago.
Astros clinch AL West
In a testament to how fiercely competitive their rivals the Oakland A's (95-63) have been this year, the Houston Astros (100-58) weren't able to clinch the American League West division title until they had won 100 games! That means the slate of AL postseason qualifying teams has already been set, and all that remains is to see whether the Yankees (97-61) or the A's will host the wild card game. (Ordinarily, I oppose having two wild card teams, but this year illustrates why it can sometimes serve a purpose.)
In the National League, meanwhile, the Milwaukee Brewers beat the St. Louis Cardinals tonight, thus earning at least a wild card slot in the postseason. It also means that the Chicago Cubs are guaranteed a postseason berth. If the Cubs manage to beat the Pirates tonight (they just lost their lead in the ninth inning, and it's now tied 6-6), they will remain a half game ahead of the Brewers in the NL Central. Otherwise...