Starting on opening day, I look at my Old Style magnet schedule regularly awaiting the glorious arrival of the Cubs just three miles from my office. I look, and wait, and look, and wait, and in the meantime make do with regular visits to Wrigley and Cubs away games. I also attend Washington Nationals games almost nightly, mostly because they are there. They are my "geographic girlfriend" while the Cubs are my "wife".
No good can come when your "geographic girlfriend" meets your "wife", and tonight was certainly no exception. In a microcosm of an atrocious season for which Bud Selig should give me some kind of endurance medal, tonight featured not just one, but both of these sorry bullpens imploding once again. (Pot, meet kettle.) But the Cubs imploded worse. At the end of the day, it's really that simple.
I was beginning to plan during the seventh inning to talk about how the Cubs actually looked much better than I expected, especially given the general foul sentiment in the game threads here. My satellite dish has been out for a couple of weeks, so the Maddux-Clemens game and the ESPN game (hah!) are the only two I have been able to watch closely since the All Star break. With the exception of Prior (more on him later), the Cubs looked decent if not stellar, even though somehow Pedro Astacio somehow appeared to be better (and stayed in longer) than in any other game this year. (I should have seen this for the clear hint that it was.)
Aramis Ramirez was a beast tonight -- both his home runs were moonshots, which is no small feat at RFK. The first was one of the longest home runs I can ever remember seeing in the stadium. When Astacio finally left, I was convinced that the moment for the Nats to self destruct had come, and I wasn't disappointed. And then -- well, no point in going back over that. Except to say that most nights in that situation this year (unless its against the Yankees), the Nats usually roll over pretty meekly and die.
As for Prior, his atrocious moments were even worse than they probably looked on TV. I sit at the plate end of the dugout -- I can't see inside/outside very well, but have an excellent view of high/low on pitches. He wasn't just high, he was consistently bordering on wild when not actually wild. It was worse than "he stinks tonight" -- I believe there is real cause for concern. That concern is only mitigated by his apparent ability to bear down in a couple of fairly dicey situations (especially against Johnson and Soriano), which left a bit of hope that we are talking about inconsistency instead of a bigger problem.
As for atmospherics, tonight was the "Grand Reopening" of RFK by the new ownership (even though the sale actually hasn't closed yet). By and large the place is still a dump (although it is my dump). But the sprucing up did seem to bring a bit of buzz to the place, along with a number of new food options and a large crowd for DC, with fewer than I expected wearing Cubs gear. Players met the fans coming into the gates (I chatted a bit with Daryle Ward), and tonight inaugurated a "President's Race", much like the sausage race in Milwaukee. George Washington won. I think this will stick as an enduring tradition, because the costumes were great.
I'm optimistic about tomorrow. Livan Hernandez hasn't been himself all year, and I don't expect anything to be different for the Cubs, especially if they can get to him early. Or they bring the new food items down to the clubhouse.