Jimenez leads Nats to extra-inning win

Nats edge past Rockies in extras

WASHINGTON -- A few days ago, Nationals infielder D'Angelo Jimenez spotted manager Manny Acta and told him how confident he was of himself.

"I'm a stud. I'm going to be fine. I'm a stud," Jimenez told Acta in Spanish.

This was coming from a guy who was 1-for-25 for the season and 0-for-19 as a pinch-hitter. But Acta took Jimenez seriously. Why? Acta has seen enough off Jimenez to know that he is a good player. After all, Jimenez played for Acta in the Dominican Winter League, where Jimenez won batting titles. Jimenez also has had a decent career in the big leagues. He was a .264 career hitter before this season.

Those credentials are the reason Acta recommended the Nationals sign him last January.

"I'm a big fan of his as a hitter," Acta said. "[I recommended him to [general manager] Jim [Bowden] during the offseason. To me, he is cut out to be a good pinch-hitter."

Shortstop Felipe Lopez also is a fan of Jimenez's. The two were also teammates when they were with the Reds, and Lopez saw Jimenez at his best. Lopez pointed out how good of a hitter Jimenez was in his recent Minor League stint. Jimenez it .368 for Triple-A Columbus.

"He just wasn't getting pinch-hits," Lopez said. "It's tough coming off the bench and do it, especially if it's new to you. He's a great hitter."

On Thursday, Jimenez came through in a big way. His single in the bottom of the 10th inning helped the Nationals defeat the Rockies, 5-4, at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium.

With the score tied at 4, right-hander LaTroy Hawkins on the mound and Austin Kearns on second base, Acta decided to have Jimenez, the last position player on the bench, to pinch-hit for reliever Jon Rauch. As usual, Jimenez worked the count to 2-0 before swinging at the next pitch and hitting a single up the middle to drive in Kearns for the winning run.

Jimenez was celebrating as if he collected his first base hit, as the players mobbed him between first and second base.

"That was huge," Acta said. "I like to point out that this guy has always been a good hitter. It's not like he gives us poor at-bats. He give us good at-bats -- gets us deep in the count."

Jimenez felt excitement after finally getting a base hit.

"For me, I was so excited to get a hit and drive in the winning run," Jimenez said. "It paid off today. Everybody is going to be in a slump, but one hit might help me get my swing back. I feel good at the plate. I'm happy for it."

At first, it looked like the Rockies were going to win the game. After 5 1/2 innings, the Rockies had a 4-1 lead.

Matt Chico started the game for the Nationals, and he made two costly mistakes. He gave up two two-run homers to Troy Tulowitzki and Garrett Atkins in the first and fourth innings, respectively. Chico lasted six innings and gave up four runs on seven hits.

"He had that first inning and fourth inning where he looked like an unpolished Minor League kid -- walking guys and unable to put away a guy 0-2," Acta said. "But then he gives us four outstanding innings and saved our bullpen real good."

The Nationals had numerous chances to score more runs against starter Ubaldo Jimenez, who gave up two runs. Two examples: After Ronnie Belliard scored on a Ryan Zimmerman double, the Nationals had runners on first and second and one out, but Ryan Church struck out and Kearns flied out to end the inning.

In the third inning, Washington had runners on first and second with no outs, but Zimmerman flied out, Dmitri Young struck out and Church grounded out to end the inning.

The Nationals managed to tie the score in the bottom of the eighth inning against reliever Jeremy Affeldt. With runners on first and second and two outs, pinch-hitter Jesus Flores singled to right field. The ball went passed Brad Hawpe for a two-base error. It allowed Church and Kearns to score on the play.

"I'm glad I could help the team to win," Flores said. "I thought it was going to be a base hit, but he missed it so I tried to run harder and I reached third base."

Washington has now won two straight games and improved its record to 40-55.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.