It wasn't the Nats fault.
A few weeks ago, Needham at his tumbler page posted a crazy scenario that would allow the Nats to reach the playoffs over the Reds. Despite it being crazy, it was probably the most likely way things could unfold in the Nats favor.
The Nats would have to go 5-1 playing the Marlins and Mets at home, 8-2 vs the Phillies, Mets and Marlins away, then 7-3 against the Phillies, Braves and Marlins. How did they do? 4-2, 8-2, 7-3, one game off what was a ridiculously hopeful finish.
At the same time the Reds would do the following; finish the road trip at St. Louis and Colorado 1-4, slip at home against the Cards, Dodgers and Cubs to the tune of 4-6, and underperform on the road playing the Brewers, Astros and Pirates going 5-4. How did they do? 2-3, 7-3, 6-3, five games better than what Needham put out there.
Up to this point the Nats needed to go 20-6. They went 19-7. Close enough. The Reds needed to go 10-14. They went 15-9. There's the season.
It was the Nats fault
One of the things we like to say is "baseball is a marathon not a sprint". It's meant to highlight the fact that the season is so long that having a bad few weeks or even couple months can be overcome. Just keep your head down, play hard and play right, and things can turn around for you. This has a certain amount of truth to it, but let me tell you a little secret about marathoners. They don't run nine minute miles for the first half of the race and expect to catch up with a fantastic finish over the last 5 miles.
A little stumble is allowed, but great teams play well all year long. The Nats were mediocre in April, May and June, playing .500 baseball for half the year. They were terrible in July (11-16), when everyone was back and playing. Their 3rd best month is going to end up being a 15-13 May. That's equivalent to the Braves 2nd worst month. The gap between the Nats and the good teams is undeniable.
The Nats had 162 games to prove that this team belonged in the playoffs. That should be enough time for a good team to overcome bad play, a few bad management decisions, or failures by the front office. And yet here we are.
Technically there is still life in the Nats, and one single decision of leeway still exists, but no. The season can officially end any day now as any combination of a Nats loss and a Pirates win and Reds win will do it. Could happen tonight. I'd be surprised if it wasn't officially over by Wednesday.