Washington Nationals players expressed a mixture of pride and regret after their loss to the Giants on Tuesday, with some already looking forward to spring training. (Whitney Leaming/The Washington Post)

 

BY [EXHAUSTED POST SPORTS BEAT WRITER]

Amid the spent cups and discarded [PIECES OF SPORTS EQUIPMENT] strewn around the [WASHINGTON SPORTS TEAM] locker room were a pile of fractured hopes, attempts at rationalization and general bewilderment.

Another promising [SPORT] season came to a premature end last night as the [WASHINGTON SPORTS FRANCHISE] fell to the [TEAM WITH A WORSE REGULAR SEASON RECORD], eliminating them from the playoffs. The ending was especially bitter, as the game was decided when [FLUKE PLAY] gave the [WASHINGTON OPPONENT] the lead and [WASHINGTON TEAM] was unable to recover.

Thus, another [SPRING/SUMMER/FALL/WINTER] that began with such promise and ambition for the [WASHINGTON SPORTS TEAM] and their fans ends in yet another [SPRING/SUMMER/FALL/WINTER] of discontent, with [WASHINGTON SPORTS TEAM] and [ITS FRONT OFFICE EXECUTIVE] confronting familiar questions in search of better answers.

“We’re close,” [FRONT OFFICE EXECUTIVE] said. “Anyone that watched us all season long can see that. We just have to figure out how to get over the hump to win in [MONTH OF THIS SPORT’S PLAYOFFS].”

While some fans quibbled with [OFFICIATING/UMPIRING CALL] in the deciding game, others took issue with [COACH/MANAGER]’s decision to [EMPLOY A STRATEGY THAT MADE NO SENSE TO ANYONE WATCHING].

Asked afterward about the choice, [COACH/MANAGER] expressed no regrets.

“That’s how we did things all season and we weren’t going to change,” he said.

Like their fans, [WASHINGTON SPORTS TEAM] players struggled to explain why they were unable to replicate their regular season success in the playoffs. After [SPORTS VERB]ing [HIGH NUMBER] of [SPORTS STATISTICS] in the regular season, [TEAM’S TOP-PAID PLAYER] managed just [VERY LOW NUMBER] of [SAME SPORTS STATISTIC] in the playoffs.

“Credit to [CLEARLY INFERIOR TEAM], they made the plays when they had to,” [UNDER-PERFORMING STAR] said. “In the playoffs it’s all about execution and they executed better.”

Still, [QUOTABLE PLAYER] insisted that this year’s playoff failure should not be linked to [SIMILARLY CRUSHING FAILURE IN RECENT PAST].

“This had nothing to do with [YEAR OF SIMILARLY CRUSHING FAILURE],” [QUOTABLE PLAYER] said quietly, as teammates sat staring off into space. “Every season is unique.”

[TEAM FRONT-OFFICE EXECUTIVE] took a long view amid the disappointment.

“We like the direction we’re heading,” [TEAM EXECUTIVE] said. “Obviously we’re disappointed, but this team is built to succeed for years to come.”

Throughout the region, amid speculation of ticket price hikes for next season, [TEAM COLORS]-clad fans expressed disappointment and frustration, though clung to warm memories of the regular season.

“I can’t believe it’s over,” said [FAN WHO HOPEFULLY WASN’T QUOTED IN LAST YEAR’S STORY]. “But I’ll never forget [HIGHLIGHT FROM PRECEDING REGULAR SEASON] and now it’s onto [WASHINGTON SPORTS TEAM WHOSE SEASON BEGINS NEXT].”

The Post Sports Live crew previews the Washington Capitals' season ahead of the first game against the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday at the Verizon Center. (Post Sports Live/The Washington Post)