In this installment of the Worst Moments of the Washington Nationals 2011 season, we regrettably remember the team’s 10-9 loss to the Chicago Cubs on July 7th.
The Nationals were coming off of one of the best months in team history in July and this contest may have been a hangover from the previous month before heading into the All-Star Break, but this 2nd worst moment of the season didn’t have to end this way. For the first 6 innings, there was significant optimism in Nationals Park.
You see, entering the game, the Nats were 2 games above .500 at 45-43. Livan Hernandez was starting and had thrown 5 shutout innings to start the game. The Nationals had a 7-run 3rd inning and added another in the 4th, giving them an 8-0 lead over the fledgeling 35-53 Cubs. The Cubs best pitcher, Matt Garza, was knocked out after just 2 innings with 6 earned runs on 8 hits.
The Nats looked to be on their way to coasting to their 46th win of the season, and then the 6th inning happened. An inning where the nearly-perfect-through-five Livan Hernandez gave up 6 earned runs and let the Cubs back into the game. Needless to say, the Nationals scored just one run over the rest of the game while the Cubs scored 4 runs in the final 3 innings to win this heartbreaker 10-9.
This awful loss was in the early days of the Davey Johnson managerial tenure, and there were some questionable moves at that time. Sean Burnett had been atrocious all season, but he was put in to give up 2 walks, a hit, and an earned run in just 2/3 of an inning. Henry Rodriguez was left in for 2 innings to give up 2 earned runs on 4 hits and earned the loss in the contest.
Ultimately, no one is to blame for a loss like this. Every team, from the World Series champs to the bottom feeders of baseball, experiences a disastrous fall apart loss similar to the Nats collapse on July 7, 2011. The important part is how the team responds, and the team responded fairly well by the end of the season to end up at 80-81. The Nats will get the chance to redeem themselves on Opening Day at Wrigley Field against the Cubs and earn their first Opening Day win in quite a few years. People in DC and across the country will be paying more attention to the Nats on April 5th next year than anyone has since Nationals Park opened in 2008. We’re happy to be among them.