In the wake of one of the biggest trades in Cubs history, trading away the team's top starter who was supposed to pitch in Saturday afternoon's game and having big-time shifts in the major-league starting rotation, it should have been easy to predict the 13-0 Nationals win over the Cubs.
The entire team had to be flat after the late-night tweets about the deal started to fly sometime around 10:30 p.m. Eastern time Friday, and you can see by one particular tweet that the Cubs were far from thinking about baseball at that hour:
So you can understand, with Carlos Villanueva pressed into service as a starter for the first time since late April and Chris Rusin following him, after what was likely a very late flight from Oklahoma City where the Iowa Cubs played Friday, that pitching in this one wasn't going to be as crisp as we have been accustomed to seeing from Cubs starting pitching this year.
Decent performance lasted two innings; Villanueva was touched for a run in the second, and then in the third the Nats put together ... well, you probably don't really want to hear all the gory details. Suffice to say that Villanueva gave up a bunch of hits, was replaced by Rusin, there was a wild pitch and by the time the inning was over the Nats led 7-0. The rest of the game could have pretty much been phoned in.
Manager Rick Renteria probably had hoped that Rusin would be able to finish the sixth inning, saving the bullpen, but after Rusin retired the first two men in that inning easily, he gave up five straight hits and the Nats scored two more runs. Nats third-base coach Bob Henley had mercy on the Cubs and held Adam LaRoche at third on a Bryce Harper single that would have normally scored LaRoche easily. Renteria double-switched Anthony Rizzo out of the out-of-hand game at that point and brought in Justin Grimm, who got out of the inning, but got touched up for four runs in the seventh. Henley again held a couple of runners who could have scored easily. That sort of thing doesn't go unnoticed by opponents, a classy thing to do.
You know what this one reminded me of? The game the day after the famous "Hugs Game", July 30, 2012. That was the game during which Reed Johnson was traded to the Braves and Geovany Soto to the Rangers, and both were seen giving hugs to everyone in the dugout after being pulled from a game the Cubs won 14-4. The next day, Ryan Dempster was also traded to the Rangers in another deal and the Cubs came to the park to face A.J. Burnett and Burnett had a no-hitter with two out in the eighth inning when Adrian Cardenas (remember him?) singled to break it up. Here's the July 31, 2012 boxscore and you can see from the players who were in that game how many changes have been made to the Cubs since then. That's the closest any pitcher has come to no-hitting the Cubs since 2004.
The Cubs came out just as flat today as on July 31, 2012, though they extended their no-no-hit streak to 7,748 games early on with a second-inning single by Starlin Castro. That was about it for the offense, though, as they managed just four other singles, the second time in eight days they'd been held scoreless by Gio Gonzalez.
I suppose after the trade, we are looking forward to 2015 and beyond. This year's Cubs have actually been doing quite well for the last seven weeks or so, but I should remind you that after the "Hugs Game," the 2012 Cubs lost eight straight and went on an 8-28 run before ending that with a four-game winning streak in early September. This team is better than that one, but they're likely to struggle some now, especially against better teams. They'll play the rubber game of this series against the Nats Sunday afternoon, with Jake Arrieta (who has been awesome recently) facing Jordan Zimmermann.
Now you can go on back to talking about the trade.