Today I felt like I was seeing something actually pretty rare in pro sports, a team that has completely, totally giving up. Manny's teams never did that in 2007 or 2008, and though there were days that they seemed to be mailing it in, he had a knack for pulling them back and re-focusing them on the task at hand.
If Jim Riggleman can't do that, if the effort we saw today becomes par for the course over the last 70 games, it's what could make the Nationals just the third team since World War II to lose 75% of its games, something I've always assumed couldn't really happen, but now I think just might.
The collapse started last night. Going into the sixth on Saturday, the Scats were up 4-2. Cubs starter Randy Wells was done for the night. Flash Jordan Zimmermann--the best damn rookie pitcher in baseball--was dealing, with eight Ks, four hits, and just one walk.
At that moment, the Nationals had a 78% chance of winning. If there was ever a game this team was in line to win, this was it. But they somehow found a way to lose.
Derrick Lee hit a flyball to left field that would have been caught by any remotely average outfielder. Dunn, who I'll politely say could have run harder, couldn't get there and the ball fell in for a ground-rule double. Then Aramis Ramirez hit a grounder at Willie Harris, who, looking like he was more worried about the family jewels than making the play, basically fell over.
So instead of two outs and no one on, and an 83.6% win expectancy, it was no outs, runners on second and third, and a 60.2% WE.
Zimmermann blew away Milton Bradley, but on his 100th pitch, after the inning should have been over, Alfonso Soriano poked a game-tying homer to the opposite field. Three-and-a-half innings and eight stranded Nationals later, Zimmermann, completely hung out to dry by his "teammates," was handed one of the least deserving losses you'll ever see a pitcher get.
Today, Garrett Mock and the Nationals were game for the first three innings. The Cubs were getting some good swings, but Mock rung up three strikeouts in the second and got a couple dandy double-plays turned by Ryan Zimmerman, especially this one in the first.
But at the first sign of adversity, the team rolled over like Belgium in wartime.
Alberto Gonzalez's lazy footwork caused an error that should have been the second out of the inning. You know what followed. Homer, single, wild pitch, walk, single, wild pitch, single, pitching change, sac fly, single, single, single, frozen rope at right at Dunn for the third merciful out.
Later, we got to see Ronnie Belliard dogging it on the base paths (sliding is for sissies), a throwing error by Nyjer Morgan, an 0-for-5 with RISP, and a complete inability to mount anything resembling a comeback against Kevin Hart, a guy who was once traded for Freddie Bynum, and the Cubs' merry band of mop-up men.
In the end, it was 11-3, and it could have been worse. Remember, Lou Piniella rested two of his team's best hitters, Aramis Ramirez and Milton Bradley.
We'll see if the team can mount any kind of resistance to the Mets this week. Outside of David Wright, New York is a AAA team right now, with an all-star team's worth of players on their DL. If they don't, the 2003 Detroit Tigers may get some company.