There will be nothing at stake for the Marlins when they close out their 2016 season on Sunday.
On Saturday, they sewed up their seventh consecutive losing season with a 2-1 setback to the first-place Nationals. No team in the majors has languished longer.
Manager Don Mattingly’s lineup was filled mostly with backups as he decided to give his tired regulars some rest. Giancarlo Stanton, Dee Gordon, J.T. Realmuto and Adeiny Hechavarria spent the afternoon watching from the dugout.
Given the watered-down lineup, the result was predictable.
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The Marlins mustered only one run on four hits off Nationals starter Tanner Roark and the Washington bullpen. And Wei-Yin Chen, unable to locate a bat belonging to Jose Fernandez as was his intention, went 0 for 2 to remain hitless for his career in the majors. Chen is now 0 for 50.
“Whenever a player goes on the DL or does not come with the team, they take his bat out, so I couldn’t find it,” Chen said. “But the bat I’m using is exactly the same model he uses.”
Fernandez was Chen’s closest friend on the team, and he said he felt heavy-hearted Saturday when he saw the No. 16, which the Nationals had painted onto the back of the mound as a tribute.
“This is my last start of the year and when I stepped on the mound and saw No. 16, I felt like Jose was right next to me, helping me pitching this game,” Chen said.
Chen was the Marlins’ big offseason pickup last winter but went through a spotty season, finishing 5-5 with a 4.97 ERA.
The Marlins produced their only run in the sixth on Chris Johnson’s two-out single.
Chen fared moderately well in his final start, giving up a first-inning run on a Bryce Harper single and a solo homer in the fifth to rookie Trea Turner. He was lifted after going five innings.
MATTINGLY: BOUR ABSENCE COSTLY
The absence from the lineup of injured first baseman Justin Bour for two months was the single greatest factor in the Marlins’ late-season fade, according to Mattingly.
“We felt it was the biggest impact loss for us because he’s sitting in the middle of the order, he puts another lefty in our lineup,” Mattingly said of Bour, who sustained a high ankle sprain on July 2 and did not return until Sept. 6.
The Marlins lost a handful of notable players to injuries over the final two months, including Stanton, Adam Conley, Chen and A.J. Ramos.
But none impacted the team more than the injury to Bour, Mattingly said.
“I know we missed Giancarlo for a period of time, but it seems like J.B. was the missing link in all that,” Mattingly said. “We think he has a huge impact.”
▪ Ramos on Friday became the fifth closer in Marlins history to record 40 saves in a season, reaching the milestone in the team’s 7-4 win over the Nationals. His total would have likely been higher had he not landed on the disabled list with a finger injury and gone more than a month — from Aug. 5 to Sept. 9 — without recording a save.
“It looked a little hairy there for a few weeks,” Ramos said of reaching 40 saves. “I didn’t know if I would get it.”
But Ramos said it gives him something to shoot for next season.
“It’s still good for me, because it means next year I have room to improve,” Ramos said. “I’m going to try to improve from 40 to 50.”
Armando Benitez holds the franchise mark with 47 saves in 2004. Antonio Alfonseca, Bryan Harvey and Todd Jones also registered 40-save seasons.
▪ Sunday: Marlins RHP Tom Koehler (9-13, 4.15 ERA) at Washington Nationals RHP Max Scherzer (19-7, 2.82), 3:05 p.m., Nationals Park.