"We haven't been playing that well this year, but this kind of pushes us forward going into next year. Definitely a nice memory." -- Justin Maxwell, Sept. 30, 2009.
THE RESULT: Justin Maxwell hit a walk-off grand slam against New York Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez, giving the Washington Nationals a 7-4 win—on Fan Appreciation Day and their last home game of the season—before 23,944 screaming Nats faithful.
When the Mets scored an insurance run in the top of the ninth to go up 4-2, things did not look good for Washington, knowing the man they call "K-Rod" was up and warming for the save, something he did a major league record 62 times last season.
But the Nats had a little something extra planned.
Alberto Gonzalez started the ninth with an infield single. Pinch-hitter Mike Morse then did what he's be doing since his recall: get a hit. He singled to put runners at first and second.
Willie Harris sacrificed the pair to second and third and Elijah Dukes laid off Rodriguez' slider to draw a walk. Ryan Zimmerman then struck out for the second out of the inning.
Adam Dunn, still sitting on 38 home runs, fought of a couple tough pitches, and drew another walk from Rodriguez, forcing in the Nats' third run of the game.
Then came Maxwell.
Maxwell had entered as a pinch-runner for Josh Willingham in the eighth inning, during a potential rally that fell short. This was his first at-bat against the crafty K-Rod. He took a ball, then two strikes looking. Another ball brought the count to 2-2. Then a foul and another ball, to go to 3-2.
Everyone in the park was standing and cheering and chanting "Let's Go Nats."
Maxwell then fouled two more pitches off during the tough at-bat. Then, on the ninth pitch of the battle, Maxwell turned on a thigh-high fastball and sent it toward the left field bleachers. Left fielder Angel Pagan leaped at the wall, and for a moment fans and broadcasters alike didn't know if he had pulled it down or not.
But the reaction from the fans in the first row of the stands told the story: The ball came to rest in the flowerbed above the left field wall, Pagan had not been successful, and Maxwell had won the game.
THE TAKEAWAY: Wow. A very exciting game to be part of. The electricity in the stands was palpable, from the emotion of the last home game right down to the ecstasy of the walk-off and sweeping the decimated Mets.
THE GOOD: John Lannan. He went seven innings, allowing just two earned runs (three total) on four hits and two walks, striking out four. He wasn't around for the final decision (Ron Villone got he win in relief), but his final start of 2009 was rock-solid.
THE BAD: Infield defense. Ian Desmond and Ryan Zimmerman both had grounder errors. Though Zim's was a rocket, and he made up for it with a solo shot in the eighth.
THE UGLY: The Mets. U-G-L-Y. I realize how many injuries they have this season, but their roster right now made the Nats look like the '27 Yankees.
NEXT GAME: The Nats head down to Georgia for a four-game set with the Braves. Garrett Mock (3-10, 5.91) makes his final start of the season against likely rookie of the year Tommy Hanson (11-4, 2.98) at 7:10 pm.