Rally in ninth helps Nationals avoid 100th loss
Courtesy of the Associated Press | 9/24/2009, 10:55 a.m.
Andre Ethier booted pinch-hitter Pete Orr's fly to right field in the ninth inning, allowing Justin Maxwell to score, and the Washington Nationals averted their 100th loss of the season with a 5-4 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday night, September 23.
Maxwell started the decisive rally with a single down the left-field line off James McDonald (5-5) to open the ninth. Alberto Gonzalez bunted Maxwell to second and Maxwell stole third before Jorge Padilla walked.
Orr, who was 2 for 13 as a pinch hitter, hit a fly to medium right and the ball bounced off the Ethier's glove as he backtracked and Maxwell scored. Orr was credited with a sacrifice fly and Ethier was given an error on the play.
The Dodgers' magic number to clinch a spot in the postseason remained at two. Any combination of Los Angeles victories and Colorado losses totaling seven will give the Dodgers the NL West title for a second straight season, a feat last accomplished in 1977-78.
Saul Rivera (1-3) got two outs for the victory after the Dodgers had tied it 4-all against Nationals closer Mike MacDougal.
Dodgers right-hander Chad Billingsley had a no-hitter for 5 2-3 innings before Ryan Zimmerman hit a tying three-run homer. Billingsley, who retired the first 14 Nationals before consecutive walks to Adam Dunn and Zimmerman in the fourth, allowed three runs on one hit over six innings, walked four and struck out nine.
Los Angeles manufactured a run for a 1-0 lead in the first. Rafael Furcal singled up the middle and stole second, advanced to third on a groundout and scored on Ethier's bounceout to second. A bases-loaded single by Russell Martin made it 2-0, but right fielder Elijah Dukes threw out Ethier, who was trying to score from second, at the plate for the third out of the fourth inning.
James Loney's RBI single made it 3-0 in the sixth and chased Nationals starter Ross Detwiler. Detwiler allowed three runs on six hits, walked three and struck out none.
The Nationals finally got to Billingsley in the sixth, tying the game on Zimmerman's 31st homer. With two down and Cristian Guzman on first after a fielder's choice, Dunn drew a walk and Zimmerman blasted Billingsley's up-and-in, first-pitch curveball into the Dodgers bullpen in left-center.
Guzman gave the Nationals a 4-3 lead in the eighth, racing home from second base when Orlando Hudson's throw on a potential inning-ending double play by Dukes pulled first baseman Loney off the bag and down the line. Guzman kept running, sliding home ahead of Loney's tardy throw.
But Guzman's error allowed Los Angeles to tie it in the ninth.
The Dodgers loaded the bases off MacDougal on an error, a pinch-hit single by Jim Thome and a walk to Furcal. Belliard hit a high chopper to shortstop Guzman, who was playing in, but Guzman's throw home pulled catcher Josh Bard off the plate and pinch-runner Jason Repko scored to tie it.