WASHINGTON -- The Nationals had a chance to reach the .500 mark on Tuesday night, but they lost to the Marlins, 3-2, at Sun Life Stadium.
The Nationals are 79-81, and will not have a winning record for the sixth consecutive season. They will not have the opportunity to get to .500, as the game against the Dodgers that was rained out earlier this month will not be made up.
But no matter how one looks at it, the Nationals have made tremendous progress. Instead of finishing in fifth or sixth place in the National League East, they will finish in third place, the highest the team has been since moving to the nation's capital after the 2004 season.
"I'm very proud of them," Johnson said. "That was a weird event that ended this ballgame. I'm comfortable where we are at, getting a lot of guys in the game and they were doing well. It was a great season. I'm really proud of these guys."
The Nationals lost the game in the bottom of the ninth inning. With the score tied at 2, Bryan Petersen swung at the first pitch from reliever Doug Slaten and homered over the right-field wall to end the game.
The Nationals may have faced right-hander Javier Vazquez for the final time. Vazquez has hinted at his retirement recently, and he was solid, throwing a complete game and allowing two runs on two hits.
"I've seen him sharper, but he is a great pitcher," Johnson said about Vazquez. "He pitched another good ballgame. He didn't give us a whole lot to hit. Great effort."
Said Marlins manager Jack McKeon about Vazquez, "It was great to see Javy go out with a win. He's been such an important part of this ballclub this last half of the season. Outstanding pitcher, but he's a real professional. This guy, he was going out there for the 10th inning. He wasn't coming out.
"He was going to either win it or lose it, but he was going to get a shot to win that game. We're so happy that he was able to be on the receiving end of one of our rare come-from-behind wins. But it was great to see the young kid Petersen do it again. Second time he's homered."
Nationals left-hander John Lannan was just as good, going six innings and allowing two runs on three hits.
The Marlins took a 1-0 lead in the third inning, when Matt Dominguez scored on a sacrifice fly by Emilio Bonifacio.
However, the Nationals tied the score in the fifth inning off of Vazquez. Morse swung at the first pitch and hit his 31st home run of the season, a solo shot over the right center-field wall.
Morse will not play the last game of the season on Wednesday afternoon. Johnson said Morse was tired and plans to give someone else a chance to play.
Morse will finish the season hitting .303 with 31 home runs and 95 RBIs. All three categories led Washington position players.
"I put in a lot of hard work, and I'm glad that it paid off," Morse said.
The Nationals then took a one-run lead an inning later. Stephen Lombardozzi scored on a double by Ian Desmond.
Lannan would then lose the lead. With runners on first and third and two outs in the bottom of the sixth, catcher Wilson Ramos was charged with a passed ball, allowing Bonifacio to score.
"He was cruising along, but for some reason, he had a little problem in the sixth," Johnson said about Lannan. "I don't know what it was. It took a little while, but he managed to battle out of it to keep it [from making it worse]."
Lannan didn't give any excuses as to why he lost the lead, nor did he blame Ramos for letting the ball go by him. In fact, Lannan was quite upset that he couldn't hold the lead.
"I kept the team in the ballgame, but I could have easily kept the lead," Lannan said. "You go out there and you get a lead and they are busting their butts out there. They get a lead and you blow it like that, it's not a good feeling.
"Going into next year, that is something I really want to work on. Guys get the lead for you, you hold it."
Lannan finished the season 10-13 with a 3.70 ERA. Lannan respectfully declined to talk about the season that he had, but Johnson felt that Lannan was one of the best pitchers on the team.
"He has been outstanding," Johnson said. "He has been a mainstay. He has pitched a lot of ballgames. Unfortunately, early on, we didn't score a lot of runs for him. He has been very stingy giving up runs."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.