The Cubs were shut out by the Nationals 2-0 this afternoon -- the first time they have been shut out this year.
That took 25 games. For perspective, here's a list of the first game in which the Cubs were shut out in the twelve seasons before 2008:
2007: game 11 2006: game 23 2005: game 7 2004: game 19 2003: game 21 2002: game 21 2001: game 23 2000: game 27 1999: game 17 1998: game 13 1997: game 6 1996: game 23
So in all but one season -- and that happened to be a pretty bad year, actually, 2000 -- the Cubs were shut out earlier than the 25 games it took in 2008. This offense is pretty good -- it just got shut down today.
This was posted by BCB reader cwyers in the comments in the overflow thread, and in case you haven't seen that, and even if you have, it bears repeating:
The spread in talent between major league ballclubs is pretty small when you take a step back and look at it from a distance; the Nationals only look like a really bad ballclub when you compare them to other major league teams. And even then, we tend to exaggerate the difference in quality between two teams.
Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose. The good teams tend to win more and the bad teams tend to lose more, but that’s over a 162 game season. In ONE game, any team in the majors, even the Giants, has enough talent to win.
It’s not a problem about "being in their heads," or being tired, or being mentally weak, or whatever character defects the armchair shrinks like to ascribe to sheer random chance. This happens, and it happens all the time. The difference between the best and worst record in baseball last season was only sixty games of 162.
What you do is you tip your cap to the other team, and you move on to play the next game.
Couldn't have said it better, although I will quibble a bit with one assertion that Colin made: I think the Cubs are tired after playing 13 games in three time zones over the last 13 days. Four different times in that 13-day stretch, they played a night game after a day game, and that can really screw up your body clock, especially considering that the first seven games of this season were all day games, and that's after playing a month of day games in Arizona (there was one split-squad night game during spring training).
(Also, wasn't the difference between best and worst in 2007 thirty games, not sixty?)
This isn't to offer excuses, and you might say, "How can they be tired after not even one month?" But given the cross-country travel of this bizarre "if it's Wednesday, this must be Denver" road trip, switching game times and time zones, I can see how the Cubs would have come out a little bit flat this afternoon.
So, give credit to John Lannan, who kept the Cubs off balance all day, and to Jon Rauch, who had Daryle Ward swinging at a pitch to end the game as if Ward were saying, "Enough of this game, let's go home." The Cubs had two big chances to chase Lannan and put the game away -- in the fifth when they caught a break on Nick Johnson's error and loaded the bases with one out, only to have Ryan Theriot hit into a soul-sucking double play, and again in the sixth when they again had runners on second and third with one out. Groundouts from Mark DeRosa and Ronny Cedeno took care of that.
Too bad, because for the second straight start, Ted Lilly threw pretty well. A pair of two-out singles in the second inning scored the only runs the Nationals got all day. The Nats had only four singles, and the two walks Lilly issued (neither of which were involved in the scoring). Michael Wuertz and Kerry Wood also threw well today, as did Sean Marshall, getting out of the 7th inning after walking pinch-hitter Aaron Boone.
So, as Colin said: tip your cap to the other guys (who the Cubs, under this year's pick 'em schedule, won't see again for almost four months, till late August at Wrigley Field), enjoy the day of rest -- actually, closer to two days off with the next game not being till Tuesday night -- and get ready for another series with the Brewers.
Two series with the Brewers at home in April and none in Milwaukee till July? That's a topic for another day.