Just when the Washington Nationals were showing signs of success and stability, and just as the players were starting to talk about the growing respect for the franchise around the league, along came the surprise announcement that manager Jim Riggleman was quitting because he wasn't happy with his contract.
The Nationals completed a sweep of the Seattle Mariners on Thursday afternoon, winning, 1-0, in the bottom of the ninth on Laynce Nix's sacrifice fly. They have won 11 of 12 and have moved above .500 this late in the season for the first time since 2005.
But no one was talking about Jason Marquis' awesome slider after general manager Mike Rizzo delivered the news to the players in the clubhouse after the game.
"Very unexpected," Marquis said. "Obviously we're playing some good baseball. Obviously he was leading the ship, and things were moving along real well."
Riggleman resigned because the Nationals wouldn't pick up next year's option on his contract. The players didn't have an inkling that such a thing was brewing.
"It's been brewing for a while," Riggleman said in a clubhouse that went from festive to stunned after completing a sweep of the Seattle Mariners. "I know I'm not Casey Stengel, but I do feel like I know what I'm doing. It's not a situation where I felt like I should continue on such a short lease.
"I tell ya, I've been in this 10 years. Maybe I'll never get another opportunity, but I promise you I'll never do it on a one-year deal again. ... You don't bring people in on a one-year deal. I'm sure they will never do it here. When they get the guy they want, it won't be on a one-year deal."
The players boarded the buses to catch a flight not knowing who will manage their upcoming road series against the Chicago White Sox. Riggleman's move caught the front office off guard, so Rizzo said he'll wait until today to announce an interim manager.
"We feel we're going in the right direction," Rizzo said. "We continue to feel that way."
Riggleman had given Rizzo a heads-up on his plans before the game, but the manager said it didn't affect him while on the bench. It seems nothing these days can slow down the Nationals once they take the field.
The three victories over the Mariners were all one-run affairs that included a five-run rally in the ninth on Tuesday, a 2-1 win Wednesday in which both runs were unearned, and Thursday's tense battle dominated early by starters Marquis and Michael Pineda.