- - Thursday, September 27, 2018

Nationals rookie manager Dave Martinez had it all planned out.

He would let Bryce Harper take his spot in right field to begin the top of the ninth inning, then let young outfielder Andrew Stevenson jog out and take Harper’s place.

That would allow the announced crowd of 28,680 fans to give one last ovation to Harper in would could have been his last home game as a Washington National on Wednesday evening.

But the rain, as it has much of the season, played spoiler once again in the Navy Yard neighborhood for Harper and the Nationals.

The Nationals were ahead by six runs to begin the top of the eighth inning when the rains came from the west and brought the familiar Skittles tarp onto the infield. After 50 minutes, the game was called and the Nationals posted a 9-3 victory over the Miami Marlins in the series finale.

Harper, a free agent after this season, was scheduled to bat in the last of the eighth inning after shortstop Trea Turner grounded into a force to end the seventh.

“I’m now very happy with the rain right now but that is how it goes,” said a glum Harper, standing by his locker after the game. “You don’t know what is going to happen in the off-season. I tried to enjoy today. For me I was trying to go up there and get a knock. I was oh-for-four with two (strikeouts). That is part of the game I guess. I thought (Wei-Yin) Chen threw a couple of good sliders to me. I just tried to go up there … and lock it in the best I could.”

Harper made his big league debut in April 2012, and was part of the first Nationals team to win a division a few months later.

The Nationals also won the division crowns in 2014, 2016 and 2017, but never advanced past the first round.

This season, the club was picked to make the World Series by Sports Illustrated, but the Nationals were eliminated from postseason contention Saturday.

“Every year we have gotten better,” said Harper, hitting .244 with 34 homers, 100 RBI, 101 runs scored and a league-high 129 walks. “It has been a lot of fun the last six, seven years. We have grown into a great franchise and a great team. We have a great team, a great organization. We had a great couple of chances to win some things … to win a World Series. We weren’t able to do that.”

“I didn’t want a farewell kind of treatment,” he added. “My heart lies here. Hopefully I am in those plans to stay where I am at.”

Harper said he saw a sign on a building near the stadium that suggested an eight-year contract for him.

“Eight years seems kind of short,” Harper said.

It is fitting rain ruined Martinez’s plans,  Major League Baseball has had its most rainouts this season in more than 20 years.

So was it weird the home schedule ended with more rain and no last at-bat for Harper?

“It wasn’t weird at all,” said Martinez, with a grin. “Very poetic.”

The Nationals are off Thursday and begin a three-game series Friday in Denver against the Rockies. Martinez said he expects Harper to play against the Rockies, who are in playoff contention.

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