Belliard's walk-off blast powers Nats

Belliard's walk-off blast powers Nats

WASHINGTON -- Ronnie Belliard's home run in the bottom of the 12th inning helped the Nationals defeat the Orioles, 3-2, in front of a record-paying crowd of 39,824 fans at Nationals Park on Sunday afternoon.

With Baltimore leading, 2-1, the Nationals were down to their last out when Dmitri Young and Belliard showed patience at the plate against closer George Sherrill. Manager Manny Acta had no players left on the bench after deciding to have Young pinch-hit for Wil Nieves.

Young had a game plan when he reached the batter's box. Lay off of Sherrill's deadly slider. The plan worked, as he walked on a 3-1 pitch.

Belliard came to the plate and found himself behind in the count, 0-2. After fouling off a slider low and away, Belliard was looking for a pitch on the inside part of the plate. Sherrill fooled Belliard, instead. Sherrill threw a fastball on the outside part of the plate. Belliard took the pitch and home-plate umpire Ron Kulpa called it a ball. The replay indicated that it was too close for Belliard to take and it appeared to be a strike.

"Yes, it was a strike," Sherrill said.

"I was looking for something inside, so when I saw something away, I laid off of it," Belliard said. I don't know how close, I didn't see it pass through. I don't check where a pitch lands. I was just looking for one pitch."

Belliard got the one pitch he was looking for, all right. He got a slider over the plate and hit the ball over the left-field wall for a two-run homer to end the game.

"I was thinking 'Hit the ball as hard as I can,'" Belliard said. "If he gave me something to drive, I was just going to hit a fly ball or something. If it hits the wall, I would get a double, probably Dmitri [would score]. But thank God the ball went out of the park."

Just minutes before Belliard's homer, reliever Joel Hanrahan was not in a good mood. It looked like the Nationals were going to drop another heartbreaker.

With two outs, the score tied at 1 and Hanrahan on the mound in the top of the 12th, Orioles outfielder Adam Jones singled to right field to drive in Nick Markakis and give the Orioles a 2-1 lead. The run was charged to Luis Ayala.

Hanrahan's mood changed after Belliard hit the home run.

"For me, it was a huge change of emotions" Hanrahan said. "I was very upset with what had happened, giving up Louie's run. [Belliard] fell behind and hit that home run. It was awesome."

By taking two out of three games this weekend, the Nationals and Orioles ended up in a 3-3 tie in the Battle of the Beltways, which pleased Acta. Washington has now won three out of its last four games to improve to 33-50.

"For all our fans, it was a tremendous series, but for all of them, at least we got a tie in the series so there's no bragging rights up until next year," Acta said. "We had the bragging rights last year. The way our team is right now, to be able to at least pull a tie for our fans, this was tremendous."

Nationals right-hander Jason Bergmann had one of the better outings of his season, pitching seven innings and giving up one run on six hits.

Bergmann was spotted a 1-0 lead in the first inning. With the bases loaded, no outs and Jeremy Guthrie on the mound, Aaron Boone hit into a force play, but Roger Bernadina was able to score on the play.

Orioles pitchers would shut out the Nationals for the next 10 innings.

Bergmann couldn't hold on to the lead, giving up a home run to Luke Scott in the top of the seventh inning to tie the score at 1.

It was Bergmann's third straight quality start, and he has seen his ERA drop from 5.48 to 4.28 over the course of those three starts.

"I went out there and did the best that I could," Bergmann said. "I think the defense really stepped it up today, They made all the plays to keep us in the game. I struggled a little bit with my command. I was able to come back a little bit and throw some strikes when I needed to."

It was Belliard who really stepped it up when the Nationals needed it the most.

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