"I thought it was a good time to go. I figured [McDonald] wasn't really worried about me after us moving the runner on the bunt." —Justin Maxwell, on stealing third in the ninth with one out, Sept. 23, 2009.
The win staves off loss No. 100 for at least one more night, and prohibited L.A. from clinching a playoff spot, again, for at least one more game. The Nats are 52-99 for the season.
Justin Maxwell started the ninth inning rally with a single down the left-field line off reliever James McDonald. Alberto Gonzalez sacrificed Maxwell up to second, and the lanky center fielder easily stole third on a curveball from McDonald (L, 5-5, 3.99), who was not paying much attention to the base runner.
Jorge Padilla, inserted for defense in the top of the inning, drew a five-pitch walk, setting up a potential double play. But pinch-hitter Pete Orr lofted a ball deep enough to right field for the game-winning sacrifice fly, triggering the fireworks from the roof of Nationals Park.
For most of the game, it didn't look like the Nats had much of a chance. L.A. starter Chad Billingsley, despite being rocked his last six outings, was unhittable into the sixth inning. But with two outs and Cristian Guzman aboard on a fielder's choice, Adam Dunn drew a walk, bringing Ryan Zimmerman to the plate.
The Nats' lone all-star blasted Billingsley's up-and-in, first-pitch curveball into the Dodgers bullpen in left-center for his 31st home run and 100th RBI of the season.
Washington starter Ross Detwiler, looking for his first major league win, pitched well, but did not factor in the decision. He went five-and-two-thirds innings, and allowed three earned runs on six hits and three walks. He did not strike out a batter.
Saul Rivera (1-3, 6.21) got the win in relief, escaping a ninth inning jam. Cristian Guzman made two throwing errors in the top of the ninth, leading to a Dodgers run. But Sean Burnett struck out Andre Ethier and Rivera retired Manny Ramirez
and Matt Kemp to end the threat.
The Nats got just five hits and made two errors, but escaped with the win. Orr said it best after the game.
"It was bizarre, but at the same time, you've got to win those games," the utility player said. "Those are the games that if that slips away from us and we don't win right there, it's a pretty big downer."
Added Zimmerman: "Are we at 99? We just try and win every game. I think we made some strides in the second half. The young guys that have come up in September have looked pretty good, and I think that's more important than anything.
"All of us are obviously disappointed in this season, but we're excited about what we have coming in the future."
At least they are still trying.
Zimmerman. Hitting in the cleanup spot, he did what interim manager Jim Riggleman put him there to do: make teams pay for walking Dunn.
Willie Harris. 0-for-3 with three strikeouts in the leadoff spot. He's hitting .222.
After making a couple of nice plays Tuesday night, "Bad-D Guz" showed up last night. Two throwing errors in the ninth almost gave that ball game away.
Though to be fair, on the throw to the plate that seemed to draw Josh Bard off and allowed the run to score, it seemed the umpire might have blown the split-second call.
Tonight at 7:05 PM. J.D. Martin (5-4, 4.21) faces Vicente Padilla (11-6, 4.52).