Nats deny Dodgers with wild walk-off

Nats deny Dodgers with wild walk-off

WASHINGTON -- Thanks to Pete Orr and Justin Maxwell, the Nationals avoided their 100th loss on Wednesday night as they defeated the Dodgers, 5-4, at Nationals Park.

It was Maxwell who started things off in the bottom of the ninth inning by hitting a single off reliever James McDonald. After Alberto Gonzalez sacrificed him to second, Maxwell stole third base on his own.

It helped that first-base coach Marquis Grissom watched McDonald and told Maxwell that the right-hander had a release point to the plate at 1.4 seconds.

"I saw where Ronnie [Belliard] was playing at third base, and Marquis told me the pitcher's time at the plate, so I thought it a good time to go," Maxwell said.

With runners on first and third and one out, Orr took a 1-1 pitch from McDonald and hit a sacrifice fly to right fielder Andre Ethier to score Maxwell. Ethier ended up dropping the ball for an error.

"I didn't try to think too much about it," Orr said. "I tried to have a game plan and understand what the pitcher has. I was trying to get the job done and stay in the middle of the field.

"It was a bizarre way to win. At the same time, you have to win those games. If it slips away from us, it would be a big downer. It's real important that we won that game."

In the first five innings, the Nationals couldn't touch Chad Billingsley, who had a no-hitter and was given a 3-0 lead after 5 1/2 innings.

But the Nationals were able to tie the score in the bottom of the sixth. With runners on first and second and two outs, Ryan Zimmerman hit a three-run homer over the left-center-field fence on the first pitch.

"He was throwing all of his pitches -- curveball was good and he was getting ahead," Zimmerman said. "When you have stuff like that and get ahead, it makes it a little tougher. Earlier in the game, he was hitting the outside corner and the inside corner."

It was Zimmerman's 31st home run of the season and gave him 100 RBIs. It marks Zimmerman's second season in which he has reached the century mark for RBIs.

As for Billingsley, he ended with a no-decision. He pitched six innings and gave up three runs on one hit. He struck out nine batters and walked four.

"Well, there were a lot of positives in there," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "Unfortunately, the walks got him and the hanging breaking ball basically spoiled his evening. He had a [heck of a] thing going. It looked like he was in a good tempo and just seemed very much in charge -- in control, I should say, more than anything else.

"Their leadoff hitter in the sixth inning [Mike Morse] really put him in harm's way because of who was coming up."

In the bottom of the eighth inning, the Dodgers played sloppy baseball. After Cristian Guzman singled, Adam Dunn hit a fly ball to left-center field. It looked like Manny Ramirez had a bead on it, but it dropped between Ramirez and center fielder Matt Kemp.

Two batters later, Elijah Dukes hit the ball up the middle, and second baseman Orlando Hudson was able to get a unassisted force play, but his throw to first base took James Loney off the bag, and Guzman scored all the way from second on the play.

However, Guzman didn't play good defense either in the top of the ninth. Closer Mike MacDougal couldn't retire a batter. Hudson led off the inning and hit a ground ball to Guzman, who made a bad throw that Dunn couldn't handle at first base.

The bases were then loaded with the infield in, when Belliard hit a soft grounder to Guzman, who made what looked like a bad throw to the plate to allow pinch-runner Jason Repko to score. The replay showed that catcher Josh Bard's foot was at the plate and Repko should have been called out. But that was all the damage the Dodgers would do, as Sean Burnett and Saul Rivera blanked Los Angeles for the remainder of the frame, stranding the bases loaded.

"In the ninth inning, we had the guys we wanted up," Torre said. "It just didn't work. Not much to look back on other than missed opportunity. You've got to give them credit in that regard."

Give the Nationals credit for avoiding 100 losses on Wednesday. Zimmerman said the team is trying to win every game the rest of the way.

"I think we made some strides in the second half. Some of the young guys who have come up in September have looked pretty good," Zimmerman said. "I think that's more important than anything. All of us are obviously disappointed about this season. I think we are excited what we have in the future."

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