It was a challenge for right-hander Garrett Mock, who started for the Nationals. He came back from the Minor Leagues with a reputation of being a solid starter with Triple-A Syracuse, going 5-1 with a 2.65 ERA. Against the Cubs, however, he looked like the same pitcher who was hit hard as a reliever.
Mock lasted 3 1/3 innings and gave up seven runs -- only four of which were earned. After three innings, Mock was given a 2-1 lead, but things unraveled in the fourth.
With one out, Jake Fox reached base on an error by shortstop Alberto Gonzalez. Alfonso Soriano followed the miscue with a two-run homer to give Chicago a 3-2 lead. Mock faced four more batters without recording an out.
"You see the scoreboard," Mock said. "I didn't make some pitches whenever it counted. That's what happens. After I didn't make a pitch to Soriano, it seemed like one thing after the other. It kept snowballing."
After Mock left, right-hander Julian Tavarez entered the game with one out and fared no better, as he gave up a sacrifice fly to Ryan Theriot and an RBI single to Derrek Lee. By the time the inning ended, Chicago scored seven runs.
Reliever Ron Villone was on the mound in the sixth inning for Washington when Fox hit a three-run homer to make it an 11-2 game.
In the home half of the seventh inning, Nationals outfielder Adam Dunn hit his 24th home run off right-hander Jeff Samardzija. Dunn established a Nationals' single-season high for home runs by a lefty hitter, surpassing Nick Johnson's 23 homers in 2006.
But it was no cause to celebrate. Washington has lost 10 out of its past 11 games, and it still has a chance to at least tie the 1962 Mets for the worst record in baseball history. New York went 40-120 that year.
On this date in '62, New York was 24-66. The Nationals are now 26-65.
Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said it can't get any worse, but the team needs the entire 25-man roster to play together.
"We have to pitch and play defense. Obviously, we have to hit," he said. "I think defense is the biggest thing. If you give the team extra outs, they are going to take advantage of it.
"Can we turn it around? Of course we can turn it around. We have the talent. It's just a matter of 25 guys caring and want to turn it around. You can't do it if half of them want to do it. You can't do it if 20 want to do it. That's the biggest thing. It's more character, not character as far as being good people. It's just character as far as playing the game the right way and getting after it.
"I think we all care at certain points, but you have to do it all the time. I think we are all guilty of [not concentrating] this year."
Dunn also believes the Nationals can turn it around. He said he wouldn't come to work every day if he didn't feel that way.
"It has to get better. It can't get any worse," Dunn said. "We are losing -- it seems like every day. It has to turn. The effort is there, and nobody is giving up. It has to turn. I hope it's sooner rather than later."