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Nats 5, Dodgers 4

For most of this season, the Nats have shown a giftedness for cramming even their finer moments into losses. (Not many teams can lose, for instance, when homering five times.) Wednesday night's 5-4 escape against the Dodgers felt like the absolute inverse of such misfortune.

Here's a quick list, in no particular order, of the reasoning:

* They were down 3-0, getting no hit by Chad Billingsley until the sixth inning.

* Their relievers, in a tie game, walked leadoff men in the seventh and eighth. (Frank Robinson used to fine people for that kind of stuff. Heck, if Jim Riggleman imposed the same policy, he'd have enough money to buy the franchise and then hire himself full-time.)

* Their go-ahead run in the top of the eighth came only when the Dodgers botched a routine fly ball and an inning-ending double play.

* They entered the bottom of the ninth tied only because relievers Sean Burnett and Saul Rivera retired Los Angeles's 3-4-5 hitters with the bases loaded, no outs.

As Riggleman said, "You're not going to bet those odds in Vegas."

Amen.

But the bottom of the ninth saved Washington from loss No. 100. Justin Maxwell led off with a hard single down the third base line, and advanced to second on a fine Alberto Gonzalez bunt. Then came the bold move: Maxwell broke for third on the first pitch to Jorge Padilla. Why take the risk? For one thing, he realized that Los Angeles righty James McDonald was taking about 1.4 or 1.5 seconds to deliver the ball. For another, he realized third baseman Ronnie Belliard was playing far off the bag.

"You know, I saw where Ronnie was playing at third base," Maxwell said. "[First base coach] Marquis [Grissom] told me the pitcher's time to the plate, so I thought it was a good time to go. I figured he's not really worried about me."

First pitch, he went.

McDonald threw a 78 mph curveball.

Maxwell slid in easily at third.

After Padilla walked, Pete Orr, pinch-hitting, came up and whacked a fly ball to right fielder Andre Ethier. It didn't even matter that Ethier dropped the ball. Maxwell danced home, and the Nationals had the win -- their 12th final-at bat victory of the year.

By Chico Harlan  |  September 23, 2009; 11:30 PM ET
 
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Next: The Premature 2010 Prediction Question

Comments

Chico - I admit that I've been critical in the past, but this is really good, perceptive insider baseball coverage. Thanks.

Posted by: Snopes1 | September 23, 2009 11:46 PM | Report abuse

Boy that game was a heart attack waiting to happen. I am so glad I was there! The game turned on an amazing throw by Dukes to get a runner at home!

Posted by: IBC-AS | September 23, 2009 11:48 PM | Report abuse

A nice win, which enhances the chances of losing less than 110.

Posted by: cokedispatch | September 24, 2009 12:03 AM | Report abuse

Let's give Dukes some props for a game well played. Sure glad Desmond wasn't in right field tonight.

Posted by: Section222 | September 24, 2009 12:10 AM | Report abuse

It seems that Chico, Carpenter/Dibble, and most of us here are completely missing the real drama of the Nationals' season at this point: the intense competition to finish with the worst major league record and win the right to draft Bryce Harper.

The Nats are now behind Pittsburgh by only four wins. Meanwhile, the Pirates are losing games with remarkable consistency: 22 of their last 25. At this rate, the Nats can't afford to win more than a handful of games or they could lose a player who by many reports is one of the best prospects ever. Maybe he'll pan out and maybe he won't, but getting someone with his superstar potential is not a small deal. It's a huge deal. Perhaps even more important than signing Strasburg.

I know there are some who believe with religious fervor that a true fan never roots against their team. I completely disagree. If you care about the Nationals' long-term prospects, it's really important that they lose as many games as possible. It's not even a close call.

In fact, if you focus on this, the end of the season promises to be almost as exciting as if the Nats were contending for first. And in this race, more than one season's post-season just might be at stake.

Posted by: Dynatic | September 24, 2009 4:55 AM | Report abuse

Don't pull your head out of the sand yet NatsNut.

Both Dibbs and Bobby C and Boz are confirming that Guzman's extreme baby reaction is the reason why we are still forced to watch him at SS every night. TV crew even used the baby to describe what he did when he was in the 6th hole. Everyone can see what is going on, just open your eyes and ears. No your exactly right, I was not in the meeting and I do not KNOW he pitched a hissy fit, but all signs sure point to it.

Posted by: JayBeee | September 24, 2009 5:06 AM | Report abuse

I agree with Boz more and more these days. At least he is watching the team and going to games since the SS signing. Riggs lost me the exactly for the reason Boz points out. He did not man up when he blew the Ian D to RF game. He said he would do it again given the chance. That is pure BS and he is paying the price with his players. Bye Bye Jim.

Posted by: JayBeee | September 24, 2009 5:09 AM | Report abuse

Chico, on your list of luck, let's not forget bringing in Saul Rivera to pitch to Manny. Right-handers are hitting over .300 off Saul, Bob and Rob pointed out last night.

Posted by: Section506 | September 24, 2009 8:37 AM | Report abuse

Chico, no mention of two Guzman errors in the 9th allowing the Dodgers to tie?

Posted by: imlazar | September 24, 2009 8:39 AM | Report abuse

heh, heh. I did read that JayB and wondered how long it would take you to call me out. nicely done.

Still, even if the guy's a big baby and his reaction is causing Riggleman to play him, Guzman is just not the disaster you (and others) make him out to be. He's just Not. That. Bad.

Posted by: NatsNut | September 24, 2009 8:51 AM | Report abuse

He did not man up when he blew the Ian D to RF game.
Posted by: JayBeee | September 24, 2009 5:09 AM

On this, though, I will argue. Not manning up is blaming others. Riggleman absolutely manned up to putting Ian in RF, and completely owned the mistake.

Posted by: NatsNut | September 24, 2009 8:53 AM | Report abuse

Sometimes its better to be lucky than good? Nice to see the little guys come out on top. Made big news on the midnight show of Baseball Tonight on ESPN2.

Posted by: dmacman88 | September 24, 2009 9:01 AM | Report abuse

Oh, and "F" Manny Rammeriz! Glad he missed the team bus last night! Hilarious! "Where's the bus?"

Posted by: dmacman88 | September 24, 2009 9:02 AM | Report abuse

@Dynatic
Baseball is about winning games not losing them. Also one player, particulary one currently 16 years old, does not a franchise make. If the NATs fall to the No. 2 slot, Harper, a Boras client, may well be available given that there is a fair chance Pittsburgh drafts for signability.

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7

Posted by: adhardwick | September 24, 2009 9:11 AM | Report abuse

Congrats to Zimm on breaking through on the 30 HR and 100 RBI fronts. Now for Dunn to get #39 and 40...

I am so not ready for more Boras hype: Oh, yes, Mike Rizzo. Whose ship has just come in -- providing he has brains enough to climb aboard...Will you tell that guy I'm giving him the chance of a lifetime?...yadda yadda yadda

Also, new, extremely premature, post up.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | September 24, 2009 9:17 AM | Report abuse

I thought the key play of the evening was Billingsley not covering first, preventing a double play, which led to the walk, which led to the homerun. The baseball gods do not like pitchers who can't be bothered to field their positions.

Posted by: markfromark | September 24, 2009 9:29 AM | Report abuse

Lost in all of the Dodgers mistakes in the 8th inning that allowed the Nats to score a go ahead run was Manny not making any real effort to catch Guzman's line drive to left. From where we were sitting, it looked like a pretty routine catch if he had charged hard when the ball was hit instead of backing up to catch the ball on the bounce. Even an average left fielder would have tried to make a play on that ball.

Posted by: wizfan89 | September 24, 2009 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Not to mention a couple of dubious calls, in right on Dukes' catch, and at home on the force for Guzman's error. Both should have been outs.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | September 24, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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