WASHINGTON -- The Florida Marlins made a good run at it, certainly better than anyone expected, so their elimination from the playoff race in the final week of the season brought feelings of both disappointment and accomplishment.
The Marlins were mathematically done after Tuesday night's 9-4 loss to the Washington Nationals, coupled with the New York Mets' 6-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs. Not bad for a team that entered the season with expectations nearly as a low as its payroll.
"What are you going to do?" manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "It's Sept. 23, and we just got eliminated, so you've got to be pretty proud of the club and the way they've battled."
Gonzalez's team had worked itself into at least a faint hope of contention by winning nine straight before dropping two to Philadelphia over the weekend and a makeup game at Cincinnati on Monday. On Tuesday, he tried the get the most he could out of starter Scott Olsen (8-11), who allowed four runs (three earned) over five innings despite pitching with a stomach virus that had him coughing in the dugout between innings.
"It looked like I had no energy," Olsen said. "I kept my team in the game, so that's all I was trying to do."
But four runs in the eighth off struggling reliever Eulogio De La Cruz effectively put the game out of reach against a team the Marlins had dominated all season.
The Nationals had lost in 13 of 15 games against Florida before Tuesday, including all six at home. They had also lost five straight overall and were starting a pitcher, Shairon Martis, who had lost his first three major league starts.
But Martis (1-3) threw a career-high 5 1-3 innings, allowing five hits and three runs with two walks and five strikeouts. He allowed a run on three hits in the first and Josh Willingham's 13th home run to open the second before settling down to retire 13 of the next 14 batters.
After the game, his teammates celebrated his first "W" by dousing him with shaving cream.
"They got me really good," Martis said. "I didn't see that coming. I didn't see anybody coming. I just knew I had shaving cream in my face. I'm happy with that -- that my teammates gave me the business, you know."
Alberto Gonzalez had a career-high four hits with two doubles and two RBIs, and Lastings Milledge had three hits and three RBIs for the Nationals, who kept their loss tally at 98. Washington needs to go at least 4-1 the rest of the way to avoid the franchise's first 100-loss season since 1976.
Not that Washington's fans are particularly riveted by that story line. The game drew 20,657 fans, a new low in the first season of Nationals Park.
Olsen allowed Ryan Zimmerman's two-run homer in the first and an unearned run in the third, when a two-base error by third baseman Jorge Cantu led to Milledge's sacrifice fly. Milledge added RBI singles in the fifth and eighth.
Gonzalez drove in a run in the sixth with a single off reliever Jesus Delgado and another in the eighth with a double off De La Cruz. De La Cruz allowed four runs in 1 2-3 innings, leaving his ERA at 18.00.
Although the playoff chase is over, Fredi Gonzalez already has his next mission for the Marlins: a chance to play spoiler against the Mets in a three-game series this weekend.
"Now we get the chance hopefully go to in there like we did last year with the Mets and still play for something," Gonzalez said. "We've still got some games left here with Washington, and I'm sure they're going to be pretty meaningful games in New York."
Willingham's home run was No. 202 for the Marlins this season, breaking the franchise record. Cody Ross hit No. 203 in the ninth. ... Washington SS Cristian Guzman was scratched from the lineup with the flu. ... Nationals reliever Mike Hinckley pitched two scoreless innings, extending his streak to 11 2-3 without a run allowed over 12 appearances to start his major league career. ... The Nationals selected OF Leonard Davis and RHP Jordan Zimmermann as their minor league player and pitcher of the year. Davis, 24, struggled for several years in the system before batting .310 with 25 HRs and 76 RBIs on three different levels this season. "I had change my approach at the plate," Davis said. "I was swinging like I still had an aluminum bat in my hand." Zimmermann, a 2007 second-round draft pick, went a combined 10-3 with a 2.89 ERA in Single-A and Double-A this year.