Derailed: Cubs 5, Nationals 13

Here's the best way to sum up today's 13-5 Cub loss to the Nationals: it should have kept raining, which it was for about an hour between 12 and 1 this afternoon, delaying the start of the game to 2:20.

Then we would have been spared watching the Cubs quickly run off the rails -- all due to a complete bullpen meltdown. Although four of today's runs were charged to Jason Marquis, only two of them scored while he was actually still in the game.

The rest scored on Willie Harris' first career grand slam off Neal Cotts.

Wait, did I really type that? "Willie Harris' first career grand slam." Yeah, I guess I really did type it, because it really did happen.

Wait, I'm not done: Harris hit another homer off Chad Gaudin in the ninth inning, putting an already ridiculous 10-5 game out of reach when the Nats scored three runs off Gaudin after two were out and no one on base, after they had scored three of Gaudin in the eighth inning.

Have you had enough? I pretty much have. This was the worst Cub loss of the year, worse than this one or this one or even this one, and the latter two of those were consecutive.

If only it had started raining after the fifth; Marquis was sailing and a slick double steal executed in the first inning by Derrek Lee and Alfonso Soriano and two homers, by Lee (his first HR since July 27) and Mark DeRosa (setting a new career RBI high for him at 75), had given the Cubs a 4-0 lead and it looked like it was going to be a no-brainer.

Well, it was, for the Nats -- who had exactly one fan in attendance, or at least I saw only one person wearing any sort of Nats clothes, a man wearing a red Nats cap, and I didn't see him till after the game, on Waveland waiting for one of the tour buses. It was a complete bullpen failure, from Neal Cotts to Bob Howry to Gaudin. The Cubs, presumably, learned the lesson today (if they didn't know this already), that they can't take anyone lightly, even a team that came into the game 38 games under .500. For a similar loss by a first-place team, check out this 1962 Dodgers/Mets game, played on almost an identical date that year, August 24, when the 83-45 (precisely the reverse of this year's Nats' record coming into today's game), first-place Dodgers lost to the Mets, whose win brought them to 63 games under .500, 50 games out of first place.

It happens. I doubt it'll happen again. I've had enough of talking about this one; heading out for the evening. Suggest you do the same. Till tomorrow.

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