WASHINGTON -- A loss tonight makes it official. With a defeat to the Nationals, the Marlins will be mathematically eliminated from winning the franchise's first-ever division title. Not that there's been much doubt since about, oh, the first week of July -- or about the time of Heath Bell's 19th blown save and the appearance of Giancarlo Stanton's "loose bodies." Maybe sooner.
"We were two different ballclubs," manager Ozzie Guillen said of the last-place Marlins and first-place Nationals. "I think you get what you deserve, and the way we played, we don't deserve to be in the pennant race. And the way they played, they should be there."
Guillen said that when he looked at the schedule back in spring training, he figured the Marlins would be playing important games in September, not ones that have become little more than glorified spring training scrimmages designed to judge talent while looking ahead.
"I thought this series was going to mean a lot for both teams," Guillen said. "I really did. I thought we were going to be fighting all the way to the end. It wasn't that way. Unfortunately, things didn't go the way we thought. I thought the race would be a little bit closer in this division. But I think Washington has outplayed everyone in this division."
Guillen is sending out his 104th different lineup (excluding pitchers) of the season in tonight's series opener at Nationals Park. According to Baseball-Reference.com, the team record belongs to the 1999 club, which had 121 different lineups. Conceivably, the Marlins could break that mark, though they have only 27 games after tonight's.
Bench coach Joey Cora, who actually writes in the names on the lineup card, doesn't believe it will happen. Cora doesn't foresee there being much tampering with the lineup between now and the end of the season.
"To be honest with you, I'm kind of surprised it's not more after all of the trades that we made," Cora said. "But I don't think it's going to be broken. I don't think it's going to change much. It's going to stay the same pretty much."
Marlins: 1. Bryan Petersen, lf; 2. Justin Ruggiano, cf; 3. Jose Reyes, ss; 4. Giancarlo Stanton, rf; 5. Carlos Lee, 1b; 6. Greg Dobbs, 3b; 7. Donovan Solano, 2b; 8. Rob Brantly, c; 9. Jacob Turner p.
Nationals: 1. Jayson Werth, rf; 2. Bryce Harper, cf; 3. Ryan Zimmerman, 3b; 4. Adam LaRoche, 1b; 5. Michael Morse, lf; 6. Ian Desmond, ss; 7. Danny Espinosa, 2b; 8. Kurt Suzuki, c; 9. Stephen Strasburg, p.