The New York Mets have won 98 games and spent 175 days atop the National League East this season.
And without one of the biggest miracles in baseball history over the next three days, none of it will be enough for New York to win the division.
The Mets (98-61) will look to bounce back from a demoralizing weekend sweep at the hands of the Atlanta Braves beginning Monday night, when New York hosts the Washington Nationals in the opener of the final, three-game series of the regular season.
Carlos Carrasco (15-7, 3.95 ERA) is slated to take the mound for the Mets against Cory Abbott (0-4, 5.11) in a battle of right-handers.
Both teams lost to division foes Sunday, when the Mets were all but eliminated from the NL East race with a 5-3 loss to the host Braves and the Nationals fell to the Philadelphia Phillies 8-1 in a game shortened to six innings because of rain.
The loss completed a worst-case weekend scenario for the Mets, who arrived in Atlanta with a one-game lead in the NL East and their three best starting pitchers -- Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer and Chris Bassitt -- lined up to start a series in which New York needed one win to clinch the season series and the tiebreaker should the teams finish the season with the same record.
But deGrom, Scherzer and Bassitt combined to go 0-3 with a 6.91 ERA. The Mets' trio had a particularly difficult time with the Braves' threesome of Matt Olson, Austin Riley and Dansby Swanson, who hit .419 (13-of-31) with seven homers and 10 RBIs in the series -- including six homers and nine RBIs against deGrom, Scherzer and Bassitt.
The sweep gave the Braves (100-59) a two-game and reduced their magic number for winning the NL East to one. Atlanta visits the Miami Marlins in a three-game series beginning Monday.
Barring a Mets sweep of the Nationals and a Marlins sweep of the Braves, New York will be the top wild card and the No. 4 seed heading into a playoff series slated to begin Friday.
The San Diego Padres (87-72) are the current No. 5 seed, with the Philadelphia Phillies (86-73) and Milwaukee Brewers (84-75) vying for the final spot.
"Stranger things have happened," Mets manager Buck Showalter said. "Our guys are going to try to get a few hours of sleep (Sunday), come back (Monday); we'll see if we can make it still happen.
"But we're going to need some help now. That's what's frustrating."
For the last-place Nationals (55-104), Monday represents at least one more chance to impact the playoff race. Washington went 2-5 last week against the Braves and Phillies but fell behind 8-0 in the driving rain Sunday afternoon.
"I got a little worried -- it was really bad," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "Guys were complaining they couldn't see very well."
The Nationals also are two games "ahead" of the Oakland Athletics in the race for the worst record in the majors and the No. 1 pick in the 2023 draft.
Carrasco didn't factor into the decision last Tuesday, when he allowed four runs over three innings in the Mets' 6-4 loss to the Marlins. Abbott took the defeat in his most recent start Sept. 26 after surrendering five runs (four earned) as the Nationals fell to the Braves 8-0.
Carrasco is 2-2 with a 3.86 ERA in seven career games (six starts) against the Nationals. Abbott is 0-0 with a 1.00 ERA in four career games (one start) against the Mets.
--Field Level Media